Finding the PA Work Life Balance That’s Right For You

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May 10, 2024
If you asked 10 physician assistants about their day-to-day life, you would likely get 10 different answers. There is so much variety in this career!
One thing that’s true for all PAs, however, is that their work life balance is completely dependent on their position. So, if you’re like many PAs who were attracted to the profession in hopes of having a healthy work life balance, you’ll want to understand what to look for when selecting a position.
Here are some factors that can affect PA work life balance, so you’ll know what to pay attention to when you’re job hunting or deciding whether to accept an offer.

3 Factors That Affect PA Work Life Balance

1. Pay Structure

Salary 

This is an important thing to consider when it comes to maintaining PA work life balance. Most physician assistant positions are salaried, meaning that they don’t require you to “clock in” or “clock out” at work.

This definitely has its pros and cons. In some situations, this means if your work is finished, you can leave work early. In others, this means that if you’re stuck at work late, you may not be compensated for that time. My current position is a balance of each, meaning that while sometimes I’m there later than normal, there are other days where I can leave earlier.

One thing that’s really important to me when looking for a salaried position is the ability to be compensated for overtime. While some salaried positions, perhaps in an outpatient setting, may have more expected hours, I currently work in cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, a field of medicine with a very unpredictable timeline. Not all salaried positions offer overtime pay for extra hours worked, so while looking for a job this is something to consider. 

Hourly

While most positions are salaried, not all of them are. A good example of this could be a position in the emergency department. Providers may be set to cover a certain amount of time, so leaving early or staying late isn’t anticipated and when it does happen they need to adjust their pay accordingly. 

In the end, there are many benefits to an hourly position, including being compensated appropriately for hours worked and oftentimes not having to bring work home with you.

2. Work Schedule 

Another key factor when it comes to PA work life balance is the hours you’re working. There is so much flexibility in this area. You could work standard office hours, overnights, 12-hour shifts, or any other combination of hours. 

As a new graduate, I had a bit of a hard time finding a position in an area of interest without experience, so I ended up taking a job that required me to work overnights. I worked 12-hour shifts and had a seven days on / seven days off schedule. 

While the seven days off were nice, the seven days in a row were brutal. Every other seven days, all I did was work, sleep, and wake up to do it again. I quickly realized this was affecting my mental and physical health as I had no time those weeks to do anything I valued outside of work. While I greatly appreciated the learning experiences I gained in that position, I realized this schedule was not manageable for me. 

My current position is in cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, a specialty with a notorious reputation for little work life balance. However, I work four 10-hour shifts per week. I do take call weekly and round about every five weekends. More importantly, I love what I do and I think that plays a huge role in your overall happiness with your career and work life balance.

3. PTO

Taking time off is very important for maintaining PA work life balance. You need to reset and recharge. The longer you work for a company, the more time off you accrue. 

Certain places also prioritize seniority when it comes to utilizing paid time off and selecting vacation time, although I have seen this more often for nursing positions. It can definitely be frustrating, especially when the weeks you need off for certain events are taken before you. Personally, I’ve never experienced this, but if you feel like your time is consistently not being prioritized in comparison to your more experienced coworkers, that may be a red flag.


How to Find the Right PA Work Life Balance For You

Before Accepting a Position

Visualize Your Ideal Schedule

The best way to find work life balance is to look for it in the positions you’re thinking about taking. 

First, visualize what your “ideal schedule” would be. A lot of factors play into this, such as whether or not you have children, if you have a partner and what their schedule looks like, and hobbies or commitments that may change when you want to be off of work. Then, when applying for jobs and interviewing, ask about their day-to-day life and scheduling and see if it aligns with this “ideal schedule.”

Consider the Work Culture

Additionally, be sure to assess the team you’ll be joining before accepting a position. Arguably, the most important thing when it comes to finding the ideal PA work life balance is the team you work with. A team that evenly divides tasks and helps coworkers in a pitch is crucial to happiness in a position. 

You know what they say, if you love what you do (and who you’re doing it with), then you will not work a day in your life!

In Your Current Position

If you have a job that you enjoy but are experiencing burnout or frustration with your schedule, there are still options for you. I highly recommend talking to your employer and team members before deciding to leave for another PA position. You may be surprised by what they could offer you, whether that’s additional compensation for overtime or a change to your schedule!

Wondering whether this is the right position for you, or considering switching PA specialties altogether? Check out our other post on when it’s time to find a new PA job!


Final Thoughts on PA Work Life Balance

Becoming a PA is a great career choice, and you can achieve your dream of finding the PA work life balance that’s best for you. Be sure to reach out if you have any questions during the course of your journey—best of luck!

Looking for more (free!) content for PAs? Check out these other posts on the Rosh Review blog!


Rosh Review is the leading Qbank provider for PA programs across the United States. Whether you’re a pre-PA student or PA-C, Rosh Review has something for you along your PA journey. Start a free trial today!

By Olivia Graham, PA-C


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