Let’s face it—no one likes working on weekends. However, for patient care not to suffer and your private practice to be successful, it is necessary. 

Finding the ideal weekend call schedule is something practitioners look far and wide for an answer and dig into every possible piece of advice they can find. Obviously, it is not ideal to work every weekend or even every other weekend, and there are several factors and circumstances to consider when deciding how to balance the weekend call schedule.

Here are some questions to consider for your weekend call schedule: How many hospitals do you have to cover and how far would you travel to see patients? What is your caseload on a given weekend? Are there short and long calls? Are there any advanced practice providers (APPs) who are available to offload some of the weekend duties? Is there a backup person available?

Let’s dive into these different areas of the weekend call schedule to navigate how to make the right decisions for your lifestyle and those of your colleagues. 

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance often means different things to different physicians. One may prefer working fewer weekends in a given month, even if that means they are seeing more patients and traveling to more than one hospital during that shift. Others may prefer to have more frequent weekends if that means they could see fewer patients on a given day. 

Something to keep in mind with the latter, though, is that the best-laid plans don’t always come to fruition. If the hospital that you are assigned is particularly busy, especially if they are facing a COVID-19 surge, your perceived “easy day” may not come to pass. All of a sudden, you are working 2 full weekends per month and then will have to repeat that again 2 weeks later, with the hopes it might be slower.

Consider all the options available to you and what would you prefer, with the understanding that your working weekend may be unpredictable.

Weekend Scheduling

Pay close attention to the availability of APPs and physician back-ups during a given call weekend. Seasoned APPs, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, know how to triage patients and formulate discharge plans. If your practice employs APPs on the weekends, it is in your best interest to utilize them as their help can be invaluable. Similarly, the availability of backup physicians and mentors during weekend calls is paramount. 

No physician wants to feel as though they are on a deserted island, especially early on in their career. Just knowing there is someone you can call for advice on a particularly confusing case or as backup during an excessive volume of patients should provide some security while working on-call weekend shifts.

Deciding On-Call Schedules

There is no perfect on-call schedule. However, in the right circumstances, it can still provide the lifestyle that works for you. Consider what is available to you, what your caseload and patient circumstances might be, and which APPs and other physicians are available to help. Most importantly, be flexible.