Cardiologists explain why career flexibility is needed to thrive in today’s challenging work environment

Cardiologists need career flexibility—including the ability to change their hours and responsibilities when necessary—to combat burnout and thrive, according to a new policy statement from the American College of Cardiology (ACC).

The document, written by a group of cardiologists and other stakeholders, was published in full in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.[1]

“Cardiologists work more hours annually than those in many other medical specialties and face increasing burnout,” according to the document. “There is growing interest in flexible schedules at all stages of the cardiology career arc, and fostering such flexibility can improve retention, increase career longevity, and address diversity and inclusion.”

The statement’s authors shared 18 key principles that outline their beliefs about career flexibility and cardiology. Those principles are summarized below:

  1. All cardiologists should have access to a flexible work environment, where hours and work commitments can change due to “personal needs, preferences and expertise” while still being mindful of the patient and the rest of the care team.
  2. Career flexibility can help cardiologists provide the most value possible over the course of their career.
  3. Career flexibility should be supported by a number of “prospectively determined, transparent policies.”
  4. A cardiologist’s options when it comes to any potential flexibility should be easy to follow and understand.
  5. Career flexibility should be supported in all possible phases of a cardiologist’s career, whether it is due to childbearing, other interests, health concerns or something else entirely.
  6. Cardiologists with “physically demanding roles” should be able to transition into a different opportunity if needed.
  7. Human resource departments should have policies in place that specifically address the different options cardiologists have if they do wish to seek out different work hours or another significant career change.
  8. “Unwarranted systemic differences based solely on hours and work type” should be minimized
  9. Cardiologists seeking flexibility should not be unfairly penalized.
  10. Cardiologists who need to reduce hours temporarily should not be unfairly penalized when they return to full-time hours.
  11. Cardiology leaders “should be responsible and held accountable” for supporting workplace flexibility.
  12. Cardiology leaders should work to recognize and handle any form of bias or disrespect aimed at someone who seeks out workplace flexibility.
  13. Training programs should make it possible for trainees to pursue a career in cardiology while also potentially starting a family.
  14. Flexibility is also needed among cardiologists considering subspecialty fellowship training.
  15. Employers should confirm aging cardiologists are still able to “fully engage in all aspects of their job descriptions”—but in a way that is fair and respectful.
  16. When it comes to malpractice liability coverage, policies are needed that would help cardiologists late in their career continue practicing cardiology and even volunteering.
  17. Physician wellness, career counseling and other similar topics should be built into cardiology training programs to help combat the risk of burnout.
  18. The potential of fatigue after a busy overnight shift must be considered so that cardiologists are not placed in a situation where they can’t provide the best care possible due to the high demands of the job.

“Other medical specialties have successfully wrestled with these issues, the ACC feels it is now time to address them in cardiology,” according to the document’s conclusion. “Our policies, structures, and expectations need to allow early-career cardiologists adequate time to start and nurture healthy families; enable midcareer cardiologists the flexibility to care for themselves or family in times of crisis or even to pursue outside interests alongside medicine; and create the pathways for older cardiologists to continue to contribute their expertise and experience.”

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