A qualitative investigation of specialist orthodontists in New Zealand: part 2. Orthodontists' working lives and work-life balance

Kieran J Soma, W Murray Thomson, Kate C Morgaine, Winifred J Harding
Australian Orthodontic Journal 2012, 28 (2): 170-80

BACKGROUND: Orthodontics is the most widely practised form of specialist dentistry in New Zealand. To date, no known qualitative research has been published examining the work-life balance of practitioners. The aim of this study was to investigate the working lives and work-life balance of NZ orthodontists in order to generate an understanding of the reality of orthodontic specialist practice and its effects on orthodontists' professional and personal lives.

METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted involving 19 practising orthodontists (four females, 15 males; mean age 50 years) from throughout New Zealand and selected for maximum variation in the sample. Transcribed interviews were analysed for themes using an applied grounded theory approach.

RESULTS: A core category of 'practising orthodontist' was derived, and related themes were grouped under the sub-categories of: (a) NZ orthodontic specialist practice; (b) NZ specialist orthodontists; and (c) Work-life balance. The present paper reports on the final sub-category. Themes emerging from the work-life sub-category were further divided into two sub-themes of 'work' and 'life'. Themes in the 'work' subgroup included time off, injuries and illness, regrets, personality traits, job stress and criticism, establishing a practice, peer support and contact, and success in orthodontics. Themes in the 'life' sub-group were personal development, family life, life balance and interests outside work, and financial security.

CONCLUSIONS: This was the first qualitative investigation of the orthodontic profession in New Zealand. The findings provided a valuable insight into the working lives of New Zealand orthodontists and effects on their day-today lives. It will be revealing and interesting to observe how the modernisation of orthodontic practice will affect the work-life balance of New Zealand orthodontists in the future.

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