by Allan Peterkin, MD
These tips are addressed to all residents, both male and female, who take a leave from residency after welcoming a new child into their family. (Good news: male residents are increasingly making use of paternity leave.) Partners and other supportive colleagues and attending staff who share the responsibilities of parenting should learn to appreciate the importance of these issues, and should advocate on behalf of medical trainees with children.
- Investigate child care options in advance of your return to work. Before you finish your maternity or paternity leave, arrange a time when you can observe how caregiver candidates interact with your child. Take the time to find a caregiver with whom your child will form a significant bond. If you are satisfied that the relationship will be a good one, you will be less distracted with worry while you’re at work. Remember the need for childcare backup and consider how the irregularity of your schedule will impact dropoff and pickup times. Child care centers tend to have fixed drop-off and pick-up times while in-home childcare options may have more flexibility.
- Because residency hours tend to be inflexible, flexibility at home is important. Discuss with your partner how you will share parenting responsibilities, and try to arrange elective rotations with flexible hours for your return after maternity/paternity leave.
- Ask your attending physician if you can finish rounds at an hour that will allow you to see your children and arrange coverage with another resident for emergencies.
- Carry a beeper/dedicated cell-phone so that your caregiver can reach you in emergencies. You will feel more comfortable knowing that you are available.
- Recruit additional support from friends, neighbors and family by asking them to be on-call or to visit your child regularly. Knowing you can call for help will give you extra peace of mind in case of an emergency.
- Call or Skype home every day to say ‘Hi’ to older children.
- Establish regular rituals with your children to ensure you spend quality time with them. For example, when you come home tired at the end of the day, try a 5-minute cuddle session.
- Make your ‘off-call’ time inviolate for your family. Plan holiday time in advance, even if you stay home, so that the whole family has something to look forward to.
- Try to do all your reading at work because it will be next to impossible to do it at home.
- Avoid a tendency to reproach yourself for not being the ideal parent-physician. You and your family will survive the rigors of residency!
Note: Educators can request a complimentary desk copy of Staying Human During Residency Training for teaching and supervision purposes by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allan Peterkin is Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Toronto and the author of the bestselling book “Staying Human During Residency Training-How To Survive and Thrive After Medical School “(University of Toronto Press), now out in its sixth edition. He heads the Program In Health, Arts and Humanities (www.health-humanities.com) and is a Founding Editor of “ARS MEDICA-A Journal of Medicine, The Arts and Humanities” (www.ars-medica.ca )