The Road Less Traveled: Nontraditional Work Arrangements in Academia

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Fall 2018
Volume 12
Issue 4

According to the 2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Study, approximately 18.7% of women and 16.4% of men actively engaged as pharmacists reported working part-time.

According to the 2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Study, approximately 18.7% of women and 16.4% of men actively engaged as pharmacists reported working part-time.1 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines part-time workers as “persons who work less than 35 hours per week,”2 but this definition might vary by work setting. A study of pharmacists’ work arrangements found that the main reasons for selecting a part-time schedule included the need for a better fit between work and personal time, often related to life changes such as child-rearing and retirement.3

A part-time position can provide a win-win situation for both a faculty member seeking such an arrangement and an academic institution that wishes to retain a skilled faculty member. Considering the increasing number of women choosing a career in pharmacy academia and the millennial generation’s value of flexibility, nontraditional work arrangements warrant further exploration.

Below are the testimonials of several pharmacy faculty members who have successfully held part-time positions and 1 department chair who has helped faculty members develop their nontraditional schedule.

Part-Time Perspective: Kathleen Vest, PharmD

I currently practice as a 0.6 full-time equivalent (FTE) faculty member and have been in this position since 2011, after the birth of my second child. I practice 2 days a week at an ambulatory care clinic and 1 day weekly at the university. The position initially started as a job share in which another faculty member and I split up clinic responsibilities to cover the full week. When we initially approached our department chair regarding switching to part-time, we were asked to create a proposal outlining each of our current academic workload and clinical responsibilities and what we envisioned the job would look like part-time. After about a year of planning, our part-time arrangement was approved, and both of us successfully worked as 0.6 FTE faculty members. Although this was successful for about 2 years, my job share partner made the decision to pursue another opportunity; during this time, the clinic approached the college to discuss expanding the clinical role into a new integrated care model. This led to a similar shared arrangement with another faculty member to create this new service and maintain the 0.6 FTE arrangement.

By working part-time, I am able to spend some extra time with my 3 young boys, have been very involved with activities at their elementary school, and have been able to coach some of their sports, all while maintaining a fulfilling academic career, continuing to expand my clinical practice, mentoring and teaching pharmacy students, and increasing my scholarship. I would advise those interested in a part-time position to envision the structure of the position as what you will do to make it successful. Anticipate potential barriers and how you will handle them, and consider how you will communicate with your administration, colleagues, and clinical site partners. Last and most important, be flexible and adaptable.

Part-Time Perspective: Brooke L. Griffin, PharmD

After returning from maternity leave to my previous position as a faculty member in ambulatory care, I approached my supervisors about exploring a part-time position. After deep reflection, I realized that although I believed this was the best decision at that point in my career, the college of pharmacy could not guarantee a position for me. Their response was supportive, which made me feel like a valued employee, but they were honest about the likelihood. Ultimately, my request to work 0.8 FTE was approved with some logistical and workload adjustments that took approximately 1 year to finalize.

I have worked part-time for 8 years, and it’s apparent that this is still a hot topic in pharmacy. I started by confiding in an older colleague, who stated that my dilemma mirrored her experience 30 years prior. Pharmacy organizations and health systems haven’t created many solutions to accommodate nontraditional roles. Therefore, I find it extremely important to highlight the success stories of alternative work arrangements. In my experience, my part-time and job share colleagues have maintained or exceeded productivity measures, in presentations, publications, research, awards, and promotion in rank and position.4 Interested pharmacists and administrators should build on these success stories when creating their own proposals. Being a part-time faculty pharmacist has been more challenging than I had anticipated, but the rewards have been priceless.

Part-Time to Full-Time Perspective: Jennifer Mazan, PharmD

To balance a career and a family, I spent many years as a 0.6 FTE faculty member when few pharmacy professors were allowed to work part-time. At that time, I was campus based with a focus on teaching. One of the reasons this arrangement was successful for so many years was my willingness to be flexible; this is a key component to a successful part-time arrangement. Once my children were older and I was ready to focus on my career, I initiated the discussion with my department chair. A proposal was drafted that included additional responsibilities to justify the transition to 1.0 FTE. The proposal was approved, and when funding was available, my request was granted. I am currently a 1.0 FTE faculty member, remain primarily campus based, and spend 1 day per week in an ambulatory care clinic.

Job Share Perspective: Kelly C. Rogers, PharmD, and Shannon W. Finks, PharmD

We have spent 12 years practicing in an academic job share non—tenure-track position at the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy. Our position is one of the first in academic pharmacy and is a long-standing example of such flexible employment within the academic pharmacy community. We initially developed a proposal for our position at a time when the College of Pharmacy needed more adjunct faculty to increase the number of students on rotations and provide more teaching. The proposal was met with enthusiasm by the department chair because it fulfilled an immediate need. However, it took about 9 months before we began our faculty position. More detailed information about our position can be found in our paper published in 2009.5

If you are considering a job share position, choosing a partner that has comparable knowledge, training, and determination for success is important. Ideally, the pair should communicate often to provide the students with a seamless rotation experience. Natural strengths should be used between the pair so that tasks are divided evenly but in a way that is most efficient. The pair should be flexible, with the ability to cover for each other when unexpected emergencies arise.

Job sharing is a way for a full-time clinical service to be covered by 2 experienced clinicians who wish to work in a part-time capacity. For our academic responsibilities, we publish at a rate similar to that of our full-time colleagues and were promoted faster than we would have been if we had each worked part-time without the partnership. We believe the job sharing arrangement has been synergistic, and in our case, 2 heads are definitely better than 1.

Department Chair Perspective: Susan R. Winkler, PharmD

Job sharing positions and part-time faculty appointments allow departments to maintain excellent faculty members and avoid recruitment costs while affording faculty members the opportunity to maintain their clinical and academic roles. Hiring part-time faculty or switching faculty to part-time can have a major impact on the department, other faculty, and the individual faculty member’s career progression. Clear expectations need to be established to manage workload and ensure that other faculty members are not negatively affected through additional workload. It is very important to maintain transparency throughout the process and to develop an equitable system of decision making when deciding whether a part-time position will fit with departmental needs and priorities.

The development of part-time or job share work arrangements can take significant time to develop, requires monitoring and oversight, and may need modifications over time. Beginning the process with a written proposal helps establish goals and priorities early in the process and provides a platform for the justification and approval of the position within the institution. Flexibility and strong communication are essential to effectively incorporating part-time and job sharing positions within a department. Nevertheless, these arrangements, if done correctly, can ultimately prove beneficial to both the school and its faculty members.

Kathleen Vest, PharmD; Ana C. Quiñones-Boex, PhD; Brooke L. Griffin, PharmD; and Jennifer Mazan, PharmD, are professors at the Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy in Illinois. Shannon W. Finks, PharmD, and Kelly C. Rogers, PharmD, are professors at the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy. Susan R. Winkler, PharmD, is the department chair of pharmacy practice at the Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy.


  • Midwest Pharmacy Workforce Research Consortium. Final report of the 2014 national sample survey of the pharmacist workforce to determine contemporary demographic practice characteristics and quality of work-life. Published April 8, 2015. Accessed August 7, 2018.
  • Glossary. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Updated June 7, 2016. Accessed August 7, 2018.
  • Quiñones AC, Mason HL. Characterizing pharmacy part-time practice. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash). 2000;40(1):17-25.
  • Winkler S, Griffin BL, Vest K, Pohl S, Mazan J. Part-time and job-share careers among pharmacy practice faculty members: planning, perspectives and reflection. Am J Pharm Edu. 2014;78(3):49. doi: 10.5688/ajpe78349.
  • Rogers KC, Finks SW. Job sharing for women pharmacists in academia. Am J Pharm Edu. 2009;73(7).135.

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