My impressions are, in some part, drawn upon having experienced the better and worse parts of the situation while being a pregnant chief resident. Apprehensive that my colleagues’ impression of my work ethic might change, I did not let anyone know that I was pregnant until well into the fifth month, because there appears to be some subtle, yet lingering, stigma about pregnancy-related work abilities. Too many times, I have heard pregnant women themselves volunteer after making a workplace error that they were operating with a “pregnancy brain.” Say what you like, but I find many expectant moms to be creative, productive and motivated. They may be exhausted, but their IQs are intact.
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Explore This IssueAugust 2015
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Lose the Guilt
I have had expectant colleagues express that they sometimes feel guilty and take on additional work in an attempt to compensate before they leave to give birth. Without an honest and respectful dialogue, both sides feel unjustly treated: Expecting moms feel that they will be leaving substantial work for others, and colleagues are afraid that they will have to do both their and someone else’s job for some time. There is ample room for improvement in this area.
With women comprising more than 50% of rheumatologists, I promote the preparation of a plan for action well before anyone announces her pregnancy. There remains the biological need and dependency of the newborn upon its mother. They both need—and we must make all reasonable effort to ensure they have—the time to bond and develop maternal intimacy. I suggest that the American College of Rheumatology and its educational branches study the issue and provide whatever assistance may be granted. Both mothers and their colleagues, who are after all teammates, need to be heard.
Women have entered the workplace and will not be exiting. At this point no one—doctors nor society—can afford to ignore issues that too often are treated as too sensitive for polite discourse.
Katarzyna Gilek-Seibert, MD, is a staff rheumatologist at Roger Williams Medical Center, Providence, R.I., and affiliated with the Boston University School of Medicine. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:
- 2 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period:
- for the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
- for the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
- to care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition;
- for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
- for any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty”; or
- 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
For more information about the FMLA, visit the Wage and Hour Division Website, and/or call the toll-free helpline, 1-866-4-USWAGE (866-487-9243).