NOTE: The communications manager for the American Board of Surgery responded to the post below with an assurance that the leave policy for medical or maternity has not changed. The quotation below was sent to program directors yesterday which lead to the misinterpretation. I decided not to delete the entire post however because I think it still brings up relevant points about leave during residency. I apologize for any problems caused by the post but I am happy that the issue has been cleared up.
Today, after having a nice conversation with a fellow mom/surgery resident about trying to achieve life balance and how much we are committed to being surgeons, I went back to my desk to find this in my inbox:
“48 Weeks of Full-Time Experience Required. We require all residents to complete 48 weeks of full-time experience in each clinical year. No more than four weeks of time off is allowed per year, regardless of the reason.”
Now this is an amendment to the previous rules that allowed 46 weeks in some years for different reasons - illness, maternity leave, etc. However, apparently the almost exclusively male American Board of Surgery has decided that in 2011, the most progressive move for them is to make surgical residency even harder for women if they are crazy enough to want to have a family! Seriously! I own my choice to be a surgeon. I love it, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. But I am also 31 years old, and I own my choice to have kids. I will do both, it is hard but it can be done. Women surgeons are a valuable and necessary asset to the practice of surgery and as a result of biology, many of us who would like to have children have to do it during training. I do not apologize for my desire to both be a surgeon and a mom. I will take my call and operate and do whatever. Is it too much to ask that I be given a remotely appropriate amount of maternity leave while forfeiting my vacation and any travel to meetings. Many residents already take less than 6 weeks of maternity leave just because they may have to fly to interviews and only have 5 or 4 weeks remaining. This new rule will leave women with 2 or 3 weeks of maternity leave. We would never ask a patient to perform the tasks we do 2-3 weeks post op. LEAD BY EXAMPLE!
be better, be innovative, be smart, be equitable, be accountable. This is ridiculous. Stop being unrealistic about reality. I will make a great surgeon. So will/do lots of women with kids and people who have to interview for jobs and present at meetings and would also like a week of vacation or who may just once need to stay home with a sick kid so as not to destroy the career of their spouse in order to meet your rules. Grow up ABS. Figure out ways to train surgeons more efficiently. We work 90 hours a week (yes, I said 90, 100, 80, 60 pick your number), we care about our patients, we care about being good surgeons - figure out a way to make that happen with humanity and 2 less weeks.