BACKGROUND: Increasing numbers of clinicians desire part-time work, and many will opt out of academic medicine if the barriers to part-time work are too great. METHOD: Purposeful sampling was used to investigate the experiences of part-time academic physicians and their division leaders to understand (1) how each identified the negative and positive consequences of part-time work, and (2) how each conceptualize part-time work. In 2004, the authors interviewed the Society of General Medicine Horn Scholars Program applicants and their division chiefs from the 2001 and 2004 award cycles and performed a qualitative analysis of the one- to two-hour audiotaped interviews. RESULTS: Seven out of nine eligible applicants and six of seven division chiefs participated. All applicants were female junior faculty clinician educators in academic internal medicine from seven institutions. All division chiefs were male full-time faculty members. Both applicants and division chiefs identified multiple specific negative and positive consequences of part-time work. Analysis of interviews suggested that both groups tended to frame part-time work as a decision to "work less" or to "work differently." Self-reflection and articulation of values helped some faculty determine where they derive the greatest happiness and fulfillment personally and professionally. CONCLUSIONS: As more academics seek work-life balance and consider part-time work as a tool to achieve that balance, academic medicine will be challenged to develop creative models for integrating successful part-time physicians, or it will lose that segment of the workforce. This study's findings suggest that one such model may require that physicians and their leaders reconceptualize work altogether.
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