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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Congratulations, You’re Pregnant! Now About Your Shifts . . . : The State of Maternity Leave Attitudes and Culture in EM


Introduction: Increasing attention has been focused on parental leave, but little is known aboutearly leave and parental experiences for male and female attending physicians. Our goal wasto describe and quantify the parental leave experiences of a nationally representative sample ofemergency physicians (EP).

Methods: We conducted a web-based survey, distributed via emergency medicine professionalorganizations, discussion boards, and listservs, to address study objectives.

Results: We analyzed data from 464 respondents; 56% were women. Most experienced childbirthwhile employed as an EP. Fifty-three percent of women and 60% of men reported working in a settingwith a formal maternity leave policy; however, 36% of women and 18% of men reported dissatisfactionwith these policies. Most reported that other group members cover maternity-related shift vacancies;a minority reported that pregnant partners work extra shifts prior to leave. Leave duration andcompensation varied widely, ranging from no compensated leave (18%) to 12 or more weeks at 100%salary (7%). Supportive attitudes were reported during pregnancy (53%) and, to a lesser degree (43%),during leave. Policy improvement suggestions included the development of clear, formal policies;improving leave duration and compensation; adding paternity and adoption leave; providing support forphysicians working extra to cover colleagues’ leave; and addressing breastfeeding issues.

Conclusion: In this national sample of EPs, maternity leave policies varied widely. The duration andcompensation during leave also had significant variation. Participants suggested formalizing policies,increasing leave duration and compensation, adding paternity leave, and changing the coverage forvacancies to relieve burden on physician colleagues. [West J Emerg Med. 2017;18(5)800-810.]

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