As the traditional confines of work-life integration among graduate medical trainees intersects with the growing challenge of physician burnout across the profession, the pressing need for systemic solutions is clear. When it comes to residents and family obligations, the pressures are a perfect storm of work-hour demands, a lack of convenient child care options, isolation from extended family, and concerns about equitable treatment and possible negative career impacts of family obligations. Earlier this year, Partners HealthCare announced a new and pioneering eight-week leave policy for all graduate medical trainees. However, at many hospitals, parental-leave policies are currently a patchwork of ad hoc guidelines that vary across programs, institutions, and specialties.

Research led by Debra Weinstein, MD, Partners Vice President of Graduate Medical Education, and colleagues had examined such policies at major medical institutions, finding that half of those institutions lacked a formal policy ensuring paid parental leave for residents and fellows. Now, Dr. Weinstein has co-authored a New England Journal of Medicine piece advocating for profession-wide policies at the national, institutional, and program levels to support trainee parents. In the piece, they offer several possible recommendations for Graduate Medical Education (GME) programs, including:

• Development of a unified, 21st-century approach to parental leave by GME oversight organizations

• Tracking and reporting of aggregated data regarding parenting during GME by the ACGME, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and GME-sponsoring organizations

• Family-friendly policies for trainees by teaching institutions to facilitate access to parenting resources

• The provision of nearby child care and backup care options by institutions, and regular breaks for nursing mothers

• Explicit information and thoughtful guidance from GME programs about integrating parenting and training responsibilities.

Through these steps, and the development of creative pilot programs such as intermittent paid leave, says Dr. Weinstein, medical training and family life need not be a binary choice.

“Financial investments should yield ample rewards by promoting trainee recruitment and, more important, by reducing stress and burnout among a vulnerable group of physicians—benefiting not only them, but also their children, their teams, and their patients,” reads the article, which was also co-authored by Christina Mangurian, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco, and Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil, Professor, Deputy Chair, and Residency Program Director, Radiation Oncology and Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Find the full perspective piece, and an audio interview with Dr. Weinstein, here.