“Previous studies have shown that physician women are juggling more childcare and house responsibilities than men in the field. We also know that work-home conflicts are a strong contributor to physician burnout,” Morgan says.
“Our study looks at system barriers, such as institutional culture, that may also contribute to unequal career progression for women. It was striking how frequently physician parents turned down scholarship and leadership opportunities.”
The pandemic normalizes conversations about work-life integration
One factor that may have dramatically changed the norm since the study was conducted – the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Part of the ethos for physicians is that you’re just supposed to figure out personal life conflicts and make it work,” Morgan says. “But now, we’ve seen private and professional lives blur out of necessity.
“The pandemic has helped us normalize conversations about how parenting and children impact our careers. This unprecedented period has provided an opportunity for academic institutions to address career growth barriers for parents, especially for women.”
Other studies indicate that the pandemic has disproportionately affected parents, particularly women, who may have had cut hours or skip certain work activities in order to take on more childcare with kids in virtual school or when daycare providers were closed.
But the pandemic-era has also forced conversations around how to nurture a supportive environment for parent physicians, Morgan notes. And it may benefit institutions to preserve some changes, such as virtual conferences, which can be “a game changer” for parents of young children, she says.
Morgan, who used to travel at least twice a month for work, says virtual events have made it easier to enjoy both career boosting opportunities while easing the strain of travel at home. Family life includes daughters Madeleine, 14 and Hazel, 11, and husband Daniel Morgan, M.D., also a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at U-M’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.
“The disruptions we’ve experienced during the pandemic open doors for leaders to be engaged in improving institutional culture by acknowledging and supporting parenting challenges,” she says.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we should evaluate how recent changes, such as holding national meetings virtually, can be maintained to better support physicians juggling family responsibilities. Leaders should recognize the different professional journeys of their parent physicians and foster a culture that encourages work life harmony.”
Paper Cited: “Perceptions of Parenting Challenges and Career Progression Among Physician Faculty at an Academic Hospital,” JAMA Network Open. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.29076