|LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2020 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 665-666
The pregnant physician: The elephant in the room
Vidisha Tuljapurkar, Deepa Nair
Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||03-Jul-2020|
|Date of Decision||08-Jul-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||09-Jul-2020|
|Date of Web Publication||19-Sep-2020|
1228, Homi Bhabha Block, Tata Memorial Centre, Dr. Ernest Borges Marg, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Tuljapurkar V, Nair D. The pregnant physician: The elephant in the room. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:665-6
In the past few decades, more and more women have entered the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and the sight of a female physician in a hospital is no longer a rarity. Women now are an integral part of the health-care system. However, despite the significant progress we have made pertaining to issues like gender equality, workplace rights, and payment disparities, issues specific to women's health and well-being remain largely unaddressed.
In spite of all the societal advances, parenting and childcare still primarily remain the responsibilities of a woman. For women physicians in training, balancing these responsibilities along with long and arduous medical residency is a herculean challenge. Two medical oncology residents at the Tata Memorial Hospital, who successfully managed their residency training with the challenges of motherhood, beautifully shared their experiences., Reading their articles brought back the bittersweet memories of our pregnancies during residency.
Most female residents are in their prime childbearing years when they enter residency programs, where on-call schedules and workplace responsibilities are often found to be clashing with the thought of their relentlessly ticking biological clocks, societal pressures to conceive, and other family responsibilities. As mentioned by Dr. Boppana, many young female physicians are forced to choose between joining residency programs in their preferred specialties and planning a family. Many female physicians either choose to enter a less demanding specialty because of family responsibilities or delay resuming full-time work or prefer to work part-time after childbirth.,
Such decisions are largely influenced by the attitudes of the program directors or peers, who may think that pregnant residents are a hindrance to the smooth working of a unit. Moreover, the selection of female residents for admission into a program may be influenced by their reproductive choices. These issues have been well reported, especially in the literature from the Western world, but data from India are sparse. Both Dr. Majumdar and Dr. Boppana, have been fortunate to have superiors and colleagues who were extremely cooperative in allowing flexible duty timings and an extended leave of absence. However, this is not universal, and there are no uniform protocols for residency programs across India.
Surgical residents particularly experience more guilt and perceive negative stigma related to pregnancy. The perceived challenges of integrating motherhood into the initially chosen subspecialty can cause up to 15% of the surgical residents to change their subspecialty. Pregnancy and motherhood can make surgical residency particularly challenging with exhaustion and lack of sleep adding to the stresses of residency.
Although the Government of India provides comprehensive maternity benefits, residents being a floating population cannot adequately avail these. The lack of adequate maternity benefits and support for childcare and breastfeeding at workplaces are important issues that may impact the career paths of many female residents and young physicians who may choose to opt for a less demanding job early in their careers to fulfill family responsibilities. The majority of the issues stated here can be addressed with a policy change at the institutional level by granting an extended maternity leave, flexible work timings, and providing breastfeeding and childcare facilities at the hospitals.
Professional fulfillment and motherhood need not be mutually exclusive. Residency for several female physicians is an experience defined by the joy of motherhood, the stresses of residency, and the insecurity of being left behind by peers. However, it can be enhanced with the understanding and support of families, both at home and at work. Support from mentors goes a long way in creating a conducive learning environment for female residents and physicians in the early stages of their careers and promotes their professional growth. After all, it does “take a village to raise a child.”
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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