Home Medizin Ärzte kämpfen darum, medizinische Karriere und Elternschaft unter einen Hut zu bringen

Ärzte kämpfen darum, medizinische Karriere und Elternschaft unter einen Hut zu bringen

von NFI Redaktion

Ensuring adequate childcare for the irregular and long hours required by a medical career is a crippling financial burden and an exhausting source of stress for doctor parents, an exclusive snapshot by The BMJ reveals today.

Some doctors have resigned or are contemplating quitting, others have switched specialties in the hope of gaining more flexibility, while still others have altered their plans to have children, health journalist Erin Dean reports.

The BMJ childcare survey ran from November 16 to 30, 2023 on bmj.com. It was open to anyone who clicked on the link. A total of 596 BMJ readers responded, including 204 consultants, 231 trainees/junior doctors, 95 general practitioners, 3 medical students, 14 nurses, 10 researchers, and 39 others. Of these, 47 were male, 548 were female, and one chose not to specify their gender.

According to the survey, more than nine out of ten (93%) respondents struggled to find suitable childcare for their working hours.

The biggest issue for all doctors who responded was finding care that spans the duration of their workday. Many spoke of stress and guilt in trying to arrive at work on time, while also picking up their children from kindergarten or after-school care at the end of the day.

The second biggest issues were the costs, checked off by 75% of respondents, and then irregular schedules, which were a problem for 65% (respondents could check off more than one option). A number of doctors reported that the costs were higher than their mortgage, and often even higher than what they earned.

A young doctor with four young children said that childcare costs £4,000 a month, £1,000 more than she earns, while another is on the verge of leaving medicine due to the costs. She said, „It is impossible to survive as a single mother on a junior doctor’s salary and pay for childcare.“

For junior doctors, rotations (a series of internships in different specialties) add additional pressure, as a change in hospitals can leave parents scrambling to arrange new care with no notice. Of the 231 junior doctors who responded, rotations were a problem for 71%, and irregular working hours for 82%.

„There is a tangible sense of fear and panic among doctors about how they will manage rotations,“ Dean noted. Some described how family members moved closer to help with childcare, while others spoke of how work has distanced them from family, which could provide valuable support.

Some doctors described how they or their partners had subsequently given up their job or left the NHS, while others switched specialties in an attempt to better accommodate childcare.

Many also described how they would like to expand their family, but simply couldn’t envision how they would find or afford childcare. Almost seven out of ten respondents stated that concerns about childcare have an impact on when and how many children they plan.

Latifa Patel, head of BMA staff, said that the overstretched NHS needs doctors who are parents more than ever, but the compatibility of childcare and work has enormous implications for medical staff.

„These figures are discouraging and reflect the profound impact that inadequate childcare options and incredibly high costs have on doctors and our families,“ she said.

Dean also notes that more than nine out of ten respondents to this BMJ survey were women, and previous reports have found that parenting apparently has a greater impact on the careers of female doctors.

While overall, a high proportion of female doctors return to work, „this may be of little comfort to the many doctors who have desperately responded to this survey and repeatedly described the dilemma they face,“ she writes.

Patel urgently calls on the government to improve childcare for essential workers and to support NHS nurseries to remain open. The government should also try to offer financial support to doctors who need to organize expensive childcare at the last minute in order to work, she said.

„It is not economically sensible for the government to watch as crowds of much-needed doctors suffer stress and are put on sick leave or abandon the profession altogether due to a lack of childcare options,“ she argued.

In two linked opinion articles, doctors describe the challenges they face in finding a flexible, affordable, and accessible childcare.


Journal reference:

Dean, E. (2024). Medical parents and childcare: the immeasurable toll unveiled. BMJ. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q128.

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