For some people in the FI/ER community the transition from full-time to part-time work will be easy. They may be unhappy, overworked, and ready to give it up for a new way of life. This was not the case for me. This transition has been a struggle in many ways. I work for a small, family-owned, independent pharmacy. Making improvements to our pharmacy services and building a team that has become my work family has been meaningful to me. I care about them and what may happen in my absence. Yet, I have been overworked and unhappy for a while. This story describes my struggles as I work through the transition to part-time work amidst a pandemic.
Why Request Reduced Hours?
Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked to define my position as a clinical pharmacist. Fortunately, the role wasn’t strictly defined which meant there was room for growth in services the pharmacy could offer.
As the company grew, I was a natural fit to fill new roles. The problem was that these new roles were added to my existing responsibilities. I ended up wearing a lot of hats—including PIC1—and my efficiency tanked with each new role. It’s in my nature to complete tasks once started, even with limited resources. So, I—as an excellent employee—did the work anyway, at the expense of my free time and happiness.
The Unhappiness of Giving Too Much
The number one rule is: “don’t cry at work”. I broke this rule many times when someone asked me, “so, how’re things going?” Each time they asked, I was at my breaking point. There seemed to be one crisis after another. The problems were out of my control yet seemed to land on my plate. I’d have to come up with a solution to the crisis, then implement the cleanup or repair as well.
My boss knew I was not happy, but every time we spoke about it, I was reassured that the situation “will get better”. They thanked me for putting in all the extra time and effort. We did try to make improvements but we were growing faster and faster. Still, I was being pulled in too many directions.
Too Many Hats and Not Enough Focus
Naturally, when the company decided they needed to have a new pharmacist position as needed in case of emergencies (“PRN”), I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t want to leave the company high and dry without a PIC, so this was a win-win for both parties. With the ample time I gave them to find a replacement, I could move from what felt like 6 full-time roles to just 2 part-time roles.
Reducing my responsibilities and hours would naturally fit in with our desire to take steps in the path of early retirement. We were already on the edge of the financial independence stage of FI/ER.
Replacing Myself So I Could Leave Full-Time Hours
When I learned our newest pharmacist—we’ll call her Martha—decided to take on the PIC role, after maternity leave, I was very excited. She was currently in a “floater” position where she filled in for the pharmacist at each of our pharmacy locations. But, her preference was to move up to the PIC role. She was also willing to take on a few of my other roles, being careful to only take what she could handle. She was a perfect fit and reminded me a lot of myself. I felt comfortable leaving my team in her hands.
As we delegated my roles to others in the company, I found myself wanting to keep more responsibilities than I wanted to let go. However, I knew I would have to give up work I enjoy in order to go part-time.
Timeline to Part-time Position: Expected vs Unexpected
I created an ideal timeline to ensure proper training of my replacement over the next few months. I did not want her to be as unprepared as I was when I was thrust into the PIC position. And personally, I needed to give myself an end date. I did not want to be needed for PIC anymore. We built-in extra time to account for possible delays of our training over the next 8 months, expecting one of those crises to come up. I did not, however, anticipate all of the things that would actually happen.
The table below shows what I expected to happen versus all of the unexpected events that preceded my planned escape to part-time work. Month by month, a new crisis emerged. Each one with another reason to delay my perfect plan. The bottom line was, something else was always more important. It felt as if my dream of part-time work was never going to happen.
|Time remaining||What happened as expected||What was not expected|
|8 months||* Accepted PRN position to start in 8 months|
* Started interviews for my replacement PIC
|7 months||* Martha accepted ‘PIC’ once returning from maternity leave|
* Hired replacement ‘floater’ pharmacist (Frank) and started his training
|6 months||* Started to delegate roles and training|
* Wrapped up major renovations of compounding lab (another project story for another time)
* Expedited training for Frank to cover for the pharmacist at our sister pharmacy for a last-minute medical leave
|5 months||* Focused efforts on training technicians in the new lab||* Frank moves to sister pharmacy full-time to cover for the pharmacist on an extended medical leave|
* Martha resumes ‘floater’ role
*Increased my staffing role and decreased training time with Martha
|4 months||* Continued PIC training as time allowed||* Decided to switch dispensing software|
* Extra training time was shifted to prepared for data migration, training & implementation of new complex dispensing software
* First COVID-19 cases are diagnosed in the US
|3 months||* New software more complex than planned and required more training |
* Worked extra hours to maintain the current workload
* Cases of COVID-19 escalate and first death reported in Virginia
|2 months||* Martha’s maternity leave starts||* Sister pharmacy closes due to COVID-19|
* Staff and patient files merged with my pharmacy
* Expedited staff training on new software
* New COVID-19 split schedule to social distance staff requires extended hours with 2 pharmacists on each shift.
|1 month||* Martha returned and completed PIC training|
* COVID-19 pandemic causes increased demand for early medication refills and new drug shortages
* COVID-19 drastically alters customer interaction
* Remained in full-time position during COVID-19 due to scheduling requirements
|Present||* Legally handed off the PIC role to Martha||* Negotiated terms of a new job position|
* I transitioned to 30 hours during COVID-19 split schedule
|Next month||* My PRN training begins at our 3rd Pharmacy||* After Virginia enters Phase 2, I transition to 8 hours a week as a PRN pharmacist|
Frank and Martha: are fake names referring to the employees for the new floater pharmacist and the new PIC respectively.
Sister pharmacy: refers to another one of our pharmacy locations within our company.
My ideal timeline to complete training for Martha did not go quite as I planned. There was no way we could have anticipated the major roadblocks that severely limited our time and shifted our focus elsewhere. However, I did build in some buffer time which helped prevent further delays. Without my careful planning, Martha may have started her new role as PIC unprepared, and/or this timeline may have been dramatically extended. Either of those situations would not be the win-win I was looking for.
Although my transition was slightly delayed, we’re dealing with a pandemic. My boss has developed plans to resume a “normal” schedule pending the downward trend of COVID-19 cases. But in the meantime, I will still be needed at the pharmacy to take care of my patients. So far, I have reduced my workload to 30 hours per week. That adds an extra 10 hours a week of personal time and I will continue to look forward to PRN work.
The Ongoing Transition to Part-time Work
My ongoing transition from a salaried full-time career to part-time project work will continue to be a feature of my column on TicTocLife. As the next few weeks unfold, I will explain how the process is going, and if there is really light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m less than a month from my next transition to PRN which should be closer to a ten-hour workweek. In the meantime, I have a lot more free time on my hands and a lot of things to figure out still. Chris and I will be posting about how we adjust to this new schedule, what changes we still need to work through. We’ll also have to define what we’re going to do with this thing called time.
- PIC: The abbreviation for Pharmacist-in-charge. A pharmacist currently licensed in this state who accepts responsibility for the operation of a Pharmacy in conformance with all laws and rules pertinent to the Practice of Pharmacy and the Distribution of Drugs and Devices, and who is personally in full and actual charge of such Pharmacy and personnel. [Source]