I’m often asked both why I came to medicine late, and why I decided to job-share for internship. I’d always wanted to be a doctor, but after marrying and starting a family as a teenager, medicine was a forgotten dream – until my marriage ended and I found myself with no career, and no education.
I began university around the time my youngest started school, and with that decision my children suddenly lost the mother who was always available, and always there. By the time I graduated – after studying full-time and working part-time for nine years – we all needed a break, and job sharing was the perfect solution.
So how does job-sharing work?
Two doctors, one role, each of us working half the hours in each pay period. Although this can mean we work week-about, typically it means we both work some shifts each week. We negotiate this based on our current rotations needs, and our own schedules. Some rotations, no handover is required. For others – such as surgical rotations – you hand over a whole ward of patients. This makes the choice of job-sharing partner supremely important, as the experience will be as positive or negative as this relationship.
My partner is Dr Elly Harris, and we are both protective of each other, always ensuring everything is complete before handing over. I need never be concerned I’ll be fixing up a mess, or that I will be left shouldering a disproportionate amount of the workload.
We work to fit in with each other.
Elly has a young son, and we are both studying. We regularly organise shifts to accommodate each other with regards to childcare, study, conferences, short breaks away, and family commitments. This benefits our workplace also – by organising cover between ourselves, we often avoid the need for PDL or annual leave. Especially in the current climate when there is a shortage of doctors available to cover shifts, this benefits everyone. We have even been able to volunteer for extra shifts in these crazy COVID times!
We learn from each other. I cannot count the number of times I have learned something from the way Elly gives handover, writes a discharge summary, or ideas she comes up with to make our work both more effective and easier. Coming from different backgrounds means we both bring different experiences and perspectives to the table, benefitting from each other’s insight. Two minds most definitely are better than one. And as internship can be tough, having someone to discuss the rigours of navigating our first steps as doctors has been enormously helpful.
Job-sharing is not just for those with newborns. It has given me time for all the things that were pushed to the side during med school, including time to reconnect both with myself and my loved ones. Although I’ll never be a full-time stay-at-home mum again, time for brunches, cafes, and chats makes up for a lot. And there is no price I could place on that.