Work-life balance is a concern for many professionals, especially women. Not only do women give birth, they’re more likely to take on childrearing duties—and even if kids aren’t part of the picture, women still often take on a larger role in the household than men. And of course, women want and need time to take care of themselves and have fun outside of work and chores.
Women looking for work-life balance often shy away from the medical field, thinking that a career in healthcare translates to years of schooling and long hours with no time for anything else. While this is certainly true of some medical professions, it doesn’t apply to all of them and there are jobs that don’t demand 60+ hours of work each week.
Here are seven medical professions that offer work-life balance:
Yes, medical school and residency is incredibly demanding, but once you graduate and start practicing as a physician, your life can calm down. Now, certain physician specialties aren’t conducive to work-life balance or spending time with a growing family. Surgery in particular is very demanding and requires long hours and on-call shifts at any time of the day or night. However, other specialties (such as dermatology) offer predictable, reasonable hours, part-time scheduling options or both. If you’d like to get an MD and go to work in a physician’s white coat while still making time for the rest of your life, talk with other women who practice in various specialties to get a real life picture of how demanding each one is.
Dentist or Dental Assistant
Dentists work very reasonable hours, usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, plus time off for holidays and vacation. As you gain more experience and achieve more seniority, your flexibility will only increase. In fact, many senior dentists only work two or three days a week, especially if they own a private practice and employ additional, younger dentists who can be there full-time. If you don’t want to take four years to go to dental school, you can become a dental assistant or hygienist instead, which usually only takes one or two years. Part-time schedules may also be available for dental assistants depending on the practice or franchise.
Similar to getting an MD, becoming a nurse can offer the flexibility you’re looking for depending on what you choose to specialize in and what environment you work in. There’s currently a nursing shortage, which actually gives nurses more leverage in terms of arguing for part-time hours, better shifts, additional benefits and so on. Depending on where they work, many nurses have control over what shifts they’re scheduled for, which translates to flexible work hours beyond a typical business schedule. (After all, patients don’t stop needing care when the clock strikes 5 p.m.) Part-time nursing work is also an option if you don’t want to work three 12s each week.
If you have office or administrative skills, but want to work in the medical industry, a job as a medical transcriptionist could be a good fit for you. You’ll transcribe audio notes made by a physician or specialist and turn them into written documents that can be referred to later. Hospitals or private practices often have their own medical transcriptionist offices which keep regular business hours. There are also opportunities to go into business for yourself and work independently as a contractor, which gives you even more flexibility over your schedule and hours. Given the nature of the job, you may also be able to complete some or all of your medical transcription work remotely from home, further adding to the work-life balance.
Medical coding is related to medical transcribing in terms of the office skills needed and the reasonable work schedules. Medical coders assign codes (unique strings of letters and numbers) to patient files based on doctor’s notes of what happened during an appointment. Medical codes help standardize treatment notations and protect patient privacy. Perhaps most importantly, they are also used for insurance purposes to determine what procedures occurred and how much your insurance provider will cover. Just like medical transcriptionists, medical coders often work directly for hospitals or private practices, but they may go into business for themselves as well. Also, like transcriptionists, medical coders may work part-time and/or remotely.
Occupational therapists work with patients who have emotional, mental or developmental conditions that make completing everyday tasks difficult. They help patients of all ages (from children to seniors) maintain, develop, improve and/or recover to improve their quality of life and independence. It does take a master’s degree to become an occupational therapist, but once you’re licensed there are a variety of environments you can work in—including hospitals, nursing homes, schools and homes—which offer varying degrees of flexibility in terms of scheduling and hours. Occupational therapists often work full-time, but some may pursue part-time work.
Physical therapists (often abbreviated as just PT) help patients recover from injury, illness or surgery to help them reduce pain and improve mobility, strength, flexibility, balance, range of motion and more. They work with patients from many ages and ability levels, from an athlete recovering from a torn tendon to a senior recuperating from hip replacement surgery. Most physical therapists observe a typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, but some physical therapy providers also offer early morning or evening hours, which means more shift options (such as 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Weekend hours and/or a part-time schedule may also be available.
You don’t have to give up your scrubs and a career in the medical field simply because you’d like some work-life balance. There are medical professions out there that don’t require 60+ hour work weeks, and this list of seven jobs is a great place to start your search. While the reality of “having it all” may be debatable, you don’t have to sacrifice your entire life to be able to work in medicine.
Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com. A site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.