ACLGIM Leadership Forum

Physician-Parents

Advice for Leaders of Physician-Parents

Dr. Kwolek (DKWOLEK@mgh.harvard.edu) is an assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Shrivastava (SShrivastava1@northwell.edu; @snehashrivi) is a general internal medicine fellow at Northwell Health. Dr. Brownfield (brownfe@musc.edu; @elishabrownfie1) is an associate professor of medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. All authors are members of the SGIM Women and Medicine Commission’s Workgroup on Parenting.

Parenting is a highly rewarding, long-term, and high-stakes commitment. For physicians, parenting demands can have a negative effect on career trajectory and prospects for academic promotion, even in the best of times. Academic physician-parents need support from their institutions, chiefs, co-workers, and professional societies to fulfill their demanding dual roles. In response, the SGIM Women and Medicine Commission (WAMC) formed a Workgroup on Parenting in 2020 to begin a support for parenting initiative.

The WAMC’s Workgroup on Parenting Initiative Has Three Major Goals

  1. To increase SGIM’s programming around parenting issues including monthly meetings throughout the year to equip physician-parents for success,
  2. To form a community for networking and to provide a safe space for members to vent, trouble-shoot, share experiences and feel supported,
  3. To work with leaders throughout SGIM to increase their support for parents at their institutions, and to identify concrete strategies for helping physician-parents to succeed.

The COVID pandemic cast large numbers of physician-parents into crisis mode simultaneously and upended any semblance of balance. Abrupt and radical changes in schooling routines, the acute inability to obtain reliable childcare, and the pervasive fear of infecting our families with an infectious disease are stressors which are unprecedented in their precipitous onset and universal reach. The ability of physician-parents to keep up with clinical responsibilities, research, scholarly endeavors, educational work, and administrative duties has become nearly impossible to manage, and ongoing chaos has caused many parents, especially women, to cut back work hours, or leave work altogether.

Working with Leaders in GIM to Effect Positive Changes for Physician-Parents

For physician-parents to thrive, they require the support of effective leaders. The WAMC Parenting Workgroup seeks to equip leaders with practical strategies gleaned from medical and business resources1-3 as well as from the experiences of our members. Suggestions include the following:

  • Connect physician parents to, or foster the creation of, social support networks
  • Share available mental health and stress-reduction resources and encourage their use
  • Work with benefit specialists to address issues such as leave, child care, and coverage for medical expenses in case of illness
  • Right-size job expectations providing flexibility of work
  • Ensure all leaders are on the same page with issues such as expectations of the team and the exceptional impact of this crisis on physician parents
  • Provide certainty and clarity, wherever possible
  • Assess physician stress, identifying and addressing specific drivers of stress at the organizational level
  • Recognize that everyone’s situation is different
  • Approach physicians with empathy and compassion

For additional information, please contact Dr. Deborah Kwolek at the following: dkwolek@mgh.harvard.edu.

References

  1. Thomas L. How to support parents juggling kids and working remotely. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurathomas/2020/10/13/how-to-support-parents-juggling-
    kids-and-working-remotely/?sh=3ed819ec3ac6 . Published October 13, 2020. Accessed February 15, 2021.

  2. American Medical Association. Resources for healthcare leadership. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/caring-our-caregivers-during-covid-19. Updated June 17, 2020. Accessed February 15, 2021.

  3. Sumpter D, Zanhour M. 3 ways companies can retain working moms right now. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/11/3-ways-companies-can-retain-working-moms-right-now. Published November 12, 2020. Accessed February 15, 2021.


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