Do Kids and a Medical Career Mix?

Yes! Kids and medicine can mix, and very well at that! So for those who love the demanding field of Obstetrics and Gynecology, don't be discouraged. But let's clear a few things up first:

No. 1: OB/GYN is not a male dominant field. When I entered residency in 1994, three out of six of us were female. The incoming interns the year I graduated were all female. The most recent stats show that at least 50 percent of the new OB/GYN residents are female.

Look around at who is speaking at our meetings and who is publishing: women OB/GYNs. Most importantly, who do you think the patients want to see if given a choice? A male or female OB/GYN? My new patient slots fill as soon as they open, my new patients wait three months just to get in with a female! This is a perfect time to be a successful female OB/GYN.

No. 2: Career and family is hard work, no matter the career. I'm not sure what "seriously wanting to raise kids" means, but if it means personally being home with the kids, then any full-time career would hinder that. No doubt having a serious career and wanting a family is a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It's not a decision one makes lightly, without thinking out the consequences and details. Good planning is essential. Knowing your options for childcare and what you are comfortable with, having family available, and how flexible your spouse's career is are all issues that need to be considered when planning to have children.

Having a baby during residency

During residency, we do not have much control over the hours we work. I was lucky enough to plan both my pregnancies during residency to avoid the most grueling rotations when my fundal heights were peaking. Then again, you also have to consider the possibility of having a complicated pregnancy and the kind of situation that may bring, e.g. if you had preterm labor and required extended time off work, which may mean you spend extra time in residency or working extra call after returning to work.

Once in private practice there is a lot of flexibility. You can join say a five-person group, which means 1 in 5 call, not even one weekend a month. But when you are on call, you're busy! You can join a smaller group, which translates to more call. But you may not be as busy. Academics usually have a manageable schedule too. Most university-based doctors share call with the entire staff (often just 1 call per month). But you may have additional responsibilities too, like teaching.

There were three doctors in our practice (we just added a new partner) which gave me about 10 call days a month (one to two weekends). I have a four-day workweek, we always have one day off a week, and one halfday for surgery only. It works really well for me.

You are in control

OB/GYN is a demanding field, but you can control how much you work. What's important is deciding what you are comfortable with. If you feel your career will interfere with the kind of family life you envision, then you need to make changes. Ask yourself:

  • Can my spouse give up his career and be the stay-at home parent? OB/GYNs have good earning potential.
  • Are there family members to help care for the kids?
  • Can I find childcare I'm comfortable with?
  • How much do I want to give to my career? What are my options?

OB/GYN is a wonderful career choice for women, whether you have a family or are planning one. It can work -- and work well!

Cherrie Morris, MD
Fort Myers, Florida

Dr. Morris is a mother of two. She currently works for the Lee Physician Group as one of a four-person private OB/GYN practice, Campbell, Devall, Morris and Ebenger. Dr. Morris graduated from residency in 1998 from USF in Tampa and attended medical school at UMDNJ-Newark. Her mom takes care of the kids as well as her husband, who works only part-time.

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