This year’s Mother’s Day will be the first one Simran Kalra, MD, will celebrate with her infant son. Earlier this year, she joined the ranks of female physicians who face the dual demands of parenthood and a career in medicine.
Of course, male physicians also struggle with balancing professional commitments and parenthood, but when it comes to distributing family responsibilities, there’s still a gender divide. Research shows female doctors handle the bulk of child care duties, and that can push them into making tough decisions. For some mothers, the compromise is to log fewer hours on the job, and for others, it means missing out on family experiences.
But being a mom and a doctor doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. Locum tenens offers providers with children a different approach to finding a comfortable balance between work and family. Here we explore locum tenens for moms and three ways parents are using locums to re-balance their lives.
1. Maternity leave on your terms
Healthcare organizations have long turned to locum tenens agencies to provide coverage when permanent staff request extended family or maternity leave. However, locum tenens can be equally beneficial for female physicians becoming mothers.
The standard maternity leave varies between six and eight weeks, and it’s common practice to extend it by cashing in vacation days. Then again, some new mothers choose to cut their leave short because of financial concerns or training requirements. According to a survey by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nearly 80 percent of female surgeons admitted to taking six or fewer weeks of maternity leave during their training.
Dr. Kalra, however, defined the duration of her own maternity leave. Because she exclusively accepts locum tenens contracts, the pediatrician says she was able to devote more than two months solely to her newborn son.
“During my pregnancy I could choose how much work I could get done and how much money I could save during that time. Now I’m spending time with my baby.”
To ease back into a work schedule, Dr. Kalra agreed to accept a short-term contract a with local facility where she’s practiced on previous assignments.
“With locum tenens, I can go back as fast or as slow as I want to,” she says. “I’m just covering two days to begin with, and a few more the next week.”
2. Redefine family time
Mom guilt is generally defined as the conundrum of feeling guilty about not being with your children while at work, and vice versa. Locum tenens can help ease that emotion because there are no additional professional commitments placed on you when not on assignment. There are no call duties to unexpectedly derail family plans. There’s no daily commute to consume mornings and evenings. Plus, you judge when a contract works best for your family. If end of the school year is jam-packed with events, performances, and celebrations, you have the power to decline opportunities during this period to make sure you don’t miss any milestones. Also, locum tenens experiences can turn into unique vacations by inviting the family to join mom on assignment.
As Larry Daugherty, M.D. explains in this short video, locum tenens also provides permanent staff the chance to go on vacation while ensuring patients continue to receive quality care.
3. Prevent burnout and career gaps
Numerous studies indicate women are more likely to feel burned out and contemplate leaving the clinical environment than men. The Medscape National Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2018 reveals that 48 percent of female physicians admit to being burned out compared with 38 percent of men. According to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital survey, 39 percent of female surgeons with children strongly considered leaving training. Also, some female physicians find reentering the workforce more difficult, and less profitable, after taking breaks to stay home with young children.
But once again, locum tenens opportunities offer a compromise. Even the occasional contract enables women physicians to maintain a presence in the professional world, keep up to date with clinical skills, and supplement their families’ income without all the stress of being supermom/superdoc.
Dr. Kalra affirms that, “Because of locum tenens, I can balance my time with my family, my profession, my patients, and myself.”