Dr. Stefanie Gilbert has a long list of reasons why US Acute Care Solution’s parental leave policy is a crucial benefit for mothers, newborns, and their families as a whole.
The 12 weeks of paid time off with flexible scheduling before and after birth makes it easier for mothers to attend post-natal doctor’s appointments, for example. It gives the family added financial security during a time sure to come with new stresses. It allows women in leadership positions the time and space to focus solely on motherhood for a while. It makes breast-feeding easier, helps attract female talent and increases retention, improves well-being, and reduces depression. The list goes on.
But perhaps it is just as illuminating to consider the drawbacks, faced by many of Gilbert’s friends, of those who work at groups without a strong parental leave policy. One of her friends who is a medical director at another group has told her she feels like she has no time to focus on her baby. She is responding to emails in between the demands of being a new mother and hasn’t really had a break since giving birth.
Another friend doesn’t get any formal leave, so a few months after she became pregnant she filed for short-term disability to allow herself at least a little time. But then she miscarried, and now she is trying to get pregnant again by the end of the year. Otherwise, she’ll lose the leave from short-term disability all together.
Gilbert, who is due with her first child in December, doesn’t have these stresses. A current enrollee in USACS’ Scholars Program and an attending at Shady Grove Adventist in Rockville, Maryland, she is confident she’ll be able to focus on being a new mother when the time comes. “I’m heavily involved at work in terms of leadership and career, and really enjoy what I do, but it also allows me to take this time off,” she said in a recent interview. “I’m not going to feel like I have to juggle or multi-task. It allows me this time to step away and focus on having a baby.”
Dr. Tracy Kane, is also due in December – Christmas Day, in fact – and spoke similarly about USACS’ Parental Leave Policy. But for her, it had an added, invaluable component: support for in vitro fertilization.
“As a female, you go through school and you work so hard to not get pregnant. Then, when we were ready we were kind of struggling,” she said. So, she and her husband took advantage of the fact that IVF is a covered benefit at USACS.
“You can tell they really value family,” Kane said. It wasn’t just the benefits themselves, it was also how USACS administered them. Though the policy allows for flexible clinical scheduling for one month before and three months post leave, Kane was concerned about how that would work in practice. But when she spoke with her scheduler recently about when and how to take the time off, they had it covered: “She just made it so easy – I’m not going to put you on nights, not at the free-standing, and only on shifts that are double-covered.” The scheduler took care of making sure everyone felt safe and covered in case Kane went into labor early.
Dr. Catherine Waggy, a physician at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, is another expectant USACS physician. She is due with her first child on Thanksgiving Day and had similar praise for her schedulers. “It wasn’t like 20 million forms and all this back and forth,” she said. “Our schedulers were just very nice about it, and technically I’m going to miss three holidays.”
Dr. Waggy also put off having kids in residency, where she recalled many of her attendings had no parental leave policy at all. “I just remember it was always a huge nightmare when someone needed to take time off.”
So when she began her job search, finding a group with a strong parental leave policy was a huge issue. “I asked everywhere I interviewed, just because you have to ask. You have to have the conversation,” she said. “Most of the groups would say something like, ‘we don’t have anything formal in place, but it won’t be a problem.’”
Waggy said those kinds of answers were concerning. “If you don’t have anything formal in place, you can do whatever you want” which truthfully means that the workplace can do whatever it wants in reality. In contrast, USACS’ policy helped to make sure she could be as free from the mental and financial stress of starting a family as possible. Along with the choice of location, Dr. Waggy said the Parental Leave benefit was “huge” when it came to choosing to join USACS: “The security of all that was just amazing.”
Starting a family shouldn’t be a burden. It shouldn’t be a financial burden. It shouldn’t be a life burden that is stuffed into the crevices of an Emergency Medicine provider’s work life. It should be made a priority and at US Acute Care Solutions that is exactly what we do. We make parental priorities our priority. These three physicians’ perspectives illustrate that USACS makes sure that pregnancy, childbirth and the essential early stages post birth are focal to the provider’s life and not focal to the workplace. We value our providers and whether the aim is to protect struggles with fertility, the physiologic changes of pregnancy, the post-natal stage, paternity or adoptive parent priorities, we continue to stake a claim to the most robust parental leave policy in acute care services.
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