The practice of flexible practice: discussion paper

Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS
Publication Type:
2003, pp. 1 - 11
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The term flexible practice describes a way of addressing the needs of GPs to spend time with family or on activities outside their time at work. It has been reported that GPs spend an average of 51.4 hours working per week (CDHFS, 1996) and other data suggest that rural general practitioners work in excess of this. However, it is not just an issue of total working hours. Flexible practice also relates to issues such as quality of life, ability to take leave at short notice, the option to work parttime, ways of dispersing on call duties between different practitioners and health services, easy entry and graceful exit from practices. Other terms used to describe flexible practice arrangements are sustainable practice or sustainable model of practice. Women rural GPs, in particular, have noted that their greatest stress was the conflict between their career and their personal life (Tolhurst et al., 1998, Kilmartin et al., 2002) as they most often carry the main responsibility for the care and rearing of children (Levitt and McEwin, 2001). The three issues contributing to this stress were described as total hours worked, time on call and not finding enough time to keep up their professional knowledge (Tolhurst et al., 1998). Women also commented that the least satisfying part of medical practice was lack of time for family and personal life. Childcare options are often very limited in rural areas, which further contributes to the problem (Tolhurst et al., 1998). In response to these issues, âflexibility was identified as the key to the development and construction of policies and programs to support female GPs in rural and remote practiceâ (Levitt and McEwin, 2001). Lippert (2002) reiterates this from her own research, noting the need for greater flexibility in practice and training arrangements and valuing varied working styles and practice arrangements.
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