Work-life balance survey results: Introduction

The results of the MomMD work-life balance survey shed light on how women in 2010 balance demanding careers in medicine with their life at home.

This installment highlights some general findings, while questions of child care and school and education are addressed in separate articles.

Two hundred and six women completed the 13-question Work-Life Balance survey on the website while it ran from March 28 to April 19, 2010.

Most of those who responded were physicians (49% attending physicians, 13% resident physicians) or physician-track students (24% premedical or medical students). The remainder was distributed among non-medical professionals (3%) or students (3%), nurses (2%), allied health professionals (3%) or other (3%).

For those respondents who were married or had a long term partner, 81.3% had a partner that worked full-time outside of the house, 8.3% worked part-time, and 10.4% did not work outside the house. The 10.4% value mirrors the current unemployment in the U.S. (9.7%).

Income by training

Family income was in line with expectations based on training. For attending physicians, 80% of families had an income of $150,000 or more. In contrast, 56% of families of resident physicians made less than $100,000, while 78% of families of female medical students made less than $100,000. The distribution of family incomes broken out by stage in career can be seen in Figure 1, and family incomes are consistent with the range of physician salaries.

Number of Children

Also as expected, the number of children in a family increased with the stage in a physician’s career. Because this survey ran on a website geared to professional mothers, the results likely overestimate the fraction of students, residents and attendings with children. That said, students on average had 1.2 children, residents had 1.5 children, and attendings had 2.1 children (Figure 2).

Work Hours

Finally, the survey also shed light on the work hours at each careerstage. Anyone who is familiar with physician training knows that the residency can be grueling. With the implementation of residency work hour limits, residents are supposed to be limited to 80 hours of work a week. With enforced rest breaks, this often turns into a max of 60 h/week. The survey shows that only 26% of residents work less than 50 hours a week, whereas 85% of attendings work fewer than 50 hours a week. Medical students report working an intermediate amount, with 80% working fewer than 50 hours a week.

It’s informative to see how work patterns shift after residency. Yes, medicine is a demanding career, but it seems that most physicians control their hours so that they are relatively normal. There is, however, an important distinction between those attendings who work more than 50 h/week, and those who work less, and we discuss that in the physician job satisfaction section.


The numbers are interesting, but don't tell the whole story - we hope that you will! Please tell us how you balance home and work on the MomMD doctor's forum.

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