Study: 39% of female residents strongly considered leaving program after having children

Roughly 39 percent of female residents who had at least one pregnancy during residency said they had considered leaving their programs, while 30 percent said they would advise female medical students against pursuing a career in surgery, according to a recent study published March 21 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

For the study, researchers electronically administered a 74-question survey in January 2017 to members of the Association of Women Surgeons, the Association of the Program Directors in Surgery listserv and through targeted social media platforms. Participants included 347 female surgeons with the mean age of 30.5. The women had experienced a combined 452 pregnancies.

The results indicated 85.6 percent, or 297 women, said they worked an unmodified schedule until they gave birth, and 63.6 percent, or 220 women, said they were concerned their work schedule negatively affected their health or the health of their unborn child. Roughly 200 women, or 58.1 percent of those surveyed, said they stopped breastfeeding earlier than they wished because of poor lactation facilities and challenges associated with leaving the operating room to pump breast milk.

"Pregnancy and childcare support may have a significant influence on the decision to pursue or maintain a career in surgery. To attract and retain the most talented candidates, surgical programs must address the challenges facing new mothers in residency," the authors concluded. "As the profession works to build the surgical workforce, the call to invigorate the field requires assessment and acknowledgment of the needs of an increasing population of women surgeons beginning families during training."

To access the study, click here.

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