Part-time work a win for WA doctors

A woman standing in front of a window
FSH Plastic Surgical and Burns Registrar Dr Kataryna Sykes is breaking the mould as the first surgical registrar in WA to be employed part-time.
June 7, 2018

Maintaining a work-life balance can be difficult for most people, none more so than for surgeons.

Typically a full-time job, Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) Plastic and Burns Surgical Registrar Dr Kataryna Sykes is breaking the mould. She is believed to be the first surgical registrar in WA to be employed part-time.

With a toddler at home, Dr Sykes works 30 to 50 hours per week and is rostered on for weekday and weekend on-call shifts, so she can balance work with her responsibilities as a parent.

Dr Sykes said the greatest change had been spending more quality time with her daughter and being able to forward-plan child care arrangements.

“As a working parent, it can be tricky juggling everything,” Dr Sykes said.

“Childcare options are challenging and expense. Having moved from the UK, my husband and I don’t have family living in Australia that we can reply on for support.

“This is increasingly the case for Australia’s medical profession, which often relies on international graduates to fill the gaps in many medical roles, not just surgery.”

FSH Plastics Consultant Dr Anna Goodwin-Walters said there was a common belief among surgical doctors in training they couldn’t ask to reduce their hours or request part-time work.

“The feeling is you’ll be negatively judged and I think that puts people off pursuing part-time work,” Dr Goodwin-Walters said.

Both doctors are calling for more flexibility to balance work and family commitments to encourage more women into surgical careers.

“We need to be more realistic if we want more female surgeons to be trained,” Dr Goodwin-Walters said.

“This involves moving away from the stereotypes and making this career more accessible and flexible, particularly for women.”

Dr Sykes said it should be a standard option for all surgeons and junior doctors.

“What it takes to be a surgeon should not just be a person’s availability, but their quality in that role. The expectation of work a 100 hour week is unrealistic, causes stress and burn out and often leads to a career change later in life,” she said.

“There are many people, both male and female, who have commitments outside of work; they might be a parent, carer for elderly or sick relatives, studying for exams or even an elite athlete.”

Dr Sykes said having flexibility has allowed her to be a better parent to her daughter and a better doctor to her patients.