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

West J Emerg Med. 2017 Aug;18(5):800-810. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2017.6.33843. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


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

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

Results: We analyzed data from 464 respondents; 56% were women. Most experienced childbirth while employed as an EP. Fifty-three percent of women and 60% of men reported working in a setting with a formal maternity leave policy; however, 36% of women and 18% of men reported dissatisfaction with 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 and compensation 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 for physicians working extra to cover colleagues' leave; and addressing breastfeeding issues.

Conclusion: In this national sample of EPs, maternity leave policies varied widely. The duration and compensation during leave also had significant variation. Participants suggested formalizing policies, increasing leave duration and compensation, adding paternity leave, and changing the coverage for vacancies to relieve burden on physician colleagues.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Emergency Medicine / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Organizational Policy
  • Parental Leave*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Shift Work Schedule / psychology*
  • Shift Work Schedule / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce
  • Young Adult