Need for Paid Parental Leave and Resident Physician Training Requirements – Often at Odds
Resident physician training programs have time-based requirements determined by their governing medical boards. However, while these standards are meant to ready physician trainees for independent practice, these time-based policies may not align with what would be considered reasonable and healthy parental leave.
A research letter in JAMA (Varda and Glover, 2018) looked at the policies of 24 medical boards. 22 had leave policies but only 11 specifically addressed parental leave. No boards had a separate policy for parental leave. The American Board of Thoracic Surgery does not even have a formal medical policy. Twenty boards had time-based training requirements for board eligibility, allowing a median of 6 weeks of leave for any reason during any one year.
When parental leave is not adequately addressed, residents who want to be parents face hurdles such as delayed childbearing with its related issues, as well as breastfeeding difficulties. The authors note the relationship between lack of support for parental leave and impact on female residents, including work-life balance concerns and increased risk for physician burnout.
On the other hand, due to these centralized policies, program directors are limited in what they can do, while still being ultimately responsible for training requirements, clinical coverage and an obligation to ensure that physicians are well-trained. The authors suggest that new approaches may be required, including using competencies rather than time-based milestones for board certification eligibility.
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