Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest post: Thoughts from an Anesthesiologist

I am currently in the midst of a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology, after completing a rigorous anesthesiology residency at a major academic medical center this past summer.  I had my first child mid-way through my CA-1 (PGY-2) year and my 2nd during fellowship.  I won't lie, completing the residency as a mother in medicine was ROUGH, despite being in a department that honestly was very supportive to me.  There were (many) days/weeks when I thought there was no way I'd make it through, and even if I did make it, it wouldn't be worth it given all I would sacrifice to get there.  Fast forward to present:  even though I'm still in training, fellowship has been significantly better than residency, I can totally see how my life as an attending will be different than these past 4.5 have been, and I REALLY like my job.  I like the people I work with, I love the work I do, and the academic medical center where I work is overall fairly family-friendly (compared to stories I've heard from elsewhere).

When I started residency, I was positive I would not be doing a fellowship and that I'd be headed to a bread-and-butter style private practice job as soon as I could.  As I found out during residency, though, part-time private practice jobs in anesthesiology are incredibly difficult to come by and essentially were not an option at all in the area where we'd like to live (near extended family).  Surprisingly, though, landing a part-time job in academic anesthesiology is much easier, the down-sides being that a fellowship is pretty much required and obviously the pay is lower.  The upsides, though, are better work-life balance, opportunity to teach residents & students, and a daily dose of challenging cases.

Although I love my children dearly, I wish I had known how tough residency would be with a child before embarking down that path as early in residency as I did.  I don't know that I would have been able to tough it out were it not for my awesome husband.  He is not a physician (engineering background/works in business currently) and that has made all the difference in our ability to manage my schedule and our family's needs together.  He totally gets the demands of the schedule of a physician and consequently does all the day care drop-offs (not a single one in our area, including the hospital's daycare, opens early enough for me to do the drop-off and make it to work on time), serves as back-up for daycare pick-ups when I get held up later at work, happily plays "Mr. Mom" when I'm on weekend call, and stays home on the days our kids are too sick to go to daycare.  That's not to say that we've been immune to the challenges of managing it all-he does travel periodically requiring extended stays from my mother to make it work, and has a fair amount of work-related evening commitments, sometimes making it seem like we barely see each other.

Although being a working Mom will never be easy and certainly neither will being a Mother in Medicine, I do feel that anesthesiology has been a great choice of specialty for me.  There are opportunities to work part time, there is minimal work that follows me home, most days I leave the hospital by 4p (sometimes even earlier), giving me a decent amount of time with the kids before bed, and the call schedule is very manageable, at least at my current institution.  While no one is thrilled when one calls in sick, honestly my dept tends to roll with it; as advocates of patient safety working in a life-and-death specialty where a lot of vigilance is required, no one wants you there when you are not healthy enough to adequately perform.  Everyday there is at least one person scheduled as "back-up", to help get all the first-case starts underway, to cover in case of illness, or to provide extra anesthesiologists in the event of a particularly heavy case load that day.  While there will still be days that are rough and make me question my career, today I can honestly say that I'm happy with my choices and as a mother in medicine.


  1. I'm a JMS and thinking about anesthesia - I've heard that it's a "lifestyle" specialty, but that there is a lot of call involved. What are your thoughts on what a regular not-part-time schedule is at most practices? Is it closer to 60 or 80 hours a week? Thank you!

  2. I'd love to know where you work. Anesthesiology isn't a "lifestyle" specialty. Everyone I know is working very hard, and if they could hire extra people they would. I'd love to know what part-time positions are out there. Never seen them. And I'm fellowship-trained.


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