Physician mothers have more responsibilities around the home than their partners or spouses; which is not surprising. But among physician mothers in surgical specialties; those with heavier loads at home more likely to say they were dissatisfied with their careers compared with those with fewer domestic responsibilities. Respondents in nonprocedural specialties did not report a significant desire to switch careers or specialty regardless of the number of responsibilities they had at home; the researchers write.
The nature of procedural specialties may explain part of this discrepancy. “It really is hard to balance what’s going on each day if you have family at home because some of what you do can not put off until tomorrow it is urgent or emergent,” said Freischlag, who authored an accompanying commentary. “Unequal division of domestic labor is a common topic amongst female physicians, particularly for those with children.
This is supported by current literature on women in surgery that show those female physicians; particularly those in procedural specialties, face many challenges in balancing responsibilities between work and home; ” senior author Nelya Melnitchouk, MD, also from the Division of Gastrointestinal and General at Brigham and Women’s. “They conducted this study to test our hypothesis that these challenges may affect career satisfaction; more negatively for physician mothers in procedural specialties than those in nonprocedural specialties,” Melnitchouk said.
Most respondents were married or had partners (1698; 99.2%); of those, 458 (27%) practiced in procedural specialties. Physician mothers had sole responsibility for most domestic tasks compared with their spouse or partner; including routine childcare plans (57.2% vs 11.2%); back-up or emergency childcare plans (43.5% vs 26.3%), cooking (43.9% vs 25.4%), grocery shopping (45.9% vs 24.8%), shopping for children’s clothing (86.4% vs 2.7%); vacation planning (50.2% vs 15.2%), helping with homework (22.1% vs 3.9%), and laundry (46.4% vs 13.1%).
Women in procedural specialties
Spouses or partners more likely to solely responsible for home repairs (62.6% vs 11%); finances (45.4% vs 30.0%), and automobile maintenance (57.5% vs 10.2%). The breakdown of domestic tasks did not differ significantly between procedural and nonprocedural specialties. However, among the women in procedural specialties; those with primary responsibility for five or more domestic tasks statistically more likely to report wanting to change careers compared with women responsible for fewer than five domestic chores (55% vs 42.1%; P = .008).
There was no such association between increased domestic responsibilities and career dissatisfaction among nonproceduralists (32.4% for those with ≥ 5 tasks vs 32.6% for those with < 5 tasks; P > .99). “While the results of our study showed a statistically significant difference in career dissatisfaction between these two groups; they believe that there are likely many physicians in non-procedural specialties who still struggle to balance domestic responsibilities with their careers and many also report dissatisfaction,
As more women enter the surgical workforce, it is very important to discuss issues surrounding gender disparities and parenthood. They believe that by publishing studies on these topics, we are identifying areas for positive interventions to allow all physicians, including men and women, to achieve more flexible and family-friendly careers,” Melnitchouk explained.