The AMA House of Delegates passed a policy to reduce the cost of child care for cash-strapped and busy medical students, residents, and fellows. Childcare is a major expense for most American families. Medical students, residents and fellows with young children are no exception.
The US Department of Health and Human Services considers child care affordable if it costs families no more than 7% of their income. The average salary for a first-year medical resident in 2021 was $58,650, while child care services ranged from $5,700 to $16,000 per year.
This math puts significant pressure on medical students, residents, and fellows to solve a complex problem with limited resources, and the results can go beyond financial stressors.
“There is a national lack of affordable, accessible, and quality child care options for the American public in general, but especially for those with low incomes and with nontraditional, varied, or inflexible work schedules” , says a WADA adviser. on the medical education report whose recommendations were adopted by the House of Delegates at the 2022 WADA Annual Meeting in Chicago.
“Medical students and residents who are parents face childcare challenges, including low or no income, rigid academic schedules, and training and service requirements that extend the work day. way beyond what most child care providers can easily accommodate,”
Citing data that indicates the struggle to juggle childcare and medical education can further increase stress for people who find themselves in an environment that has been documented to increase levels of depression and burnout. , delegates adopted a policy to tackle what is a heavy burden on students. and physicians across the training spectrum.
“Many doctors-in-training may become parents during their medical training, a time when their pay is low or non-existent and they work very unconventional hours,” said AMA President-Elect Jesse M. Ehrenfeld. , MD, MPH. “We believe that providing on-site or subsidized child care to medical students and residents during their training will help ease some of the financial burden they face and provide the best possible solution to the needs of care of their family’s children.
With the new policy, WADA will:
- Recognize the unique child care challenges faced by medical students, residents, and fellows, which result from a combination of limited bargaining ability (given the process of matching to residency), d non-traditional working hours, extended or unpredictable shifts, and minimal autonomy in choosing their work schedules.
- Recognize the fiscal challenges faced by medical schools and institutions of higher medical education in providing on-site or subsidized child care to students and employees, including residents and fellows.
- Encourage the provision of on-site or subsidized child care for medical students, residents and fellows.
Delegates also asked the AMA to “work with the Accreditation Council for Higher Medical Education, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine to identify barriers to child care.” for medical trainees and innovative methods and best practices for instituting on-site or subsidized child care that meet the unique needs of medical students, residents and fellows.
Parental leave for medical students
In a separate action, delegates addressed family planning resources and parental leave options for medical students.
According to a study cited in an Illinois delegation resolution, about one in 10 medical students will be parents by the time they graduate from medical school.
Despite this, resources that offer clear information to medical students on how to have or raise a child while progressing through medical school are often lacking, creating an additional stressor during a chaotic time. in the lives of these new caregivers and future doctors.
“It is essential that medical students can take parental leave during their medical training without fear of punishment or sanction. We urge all medical schools to provide at least six weeks of parental leave for their students,” said AMA Administrator Drayton Charles Harvey.
To remedy the problem, delegates adopted a new policy to:
- Encourage medical schools to create comprehensive informational resources that promote a culture that supports their students who are parents, including information and policies on parental leave and relevant remedial work, options for preserving fertility, breastfeeding, accommodations during pregnancy, and resources for child care that cover the facility and surrounding area.
- Encourage medical schools to provide students with a minimum of six weeks of parental leave without academic or disciplinary sanctions that would delay early graduation based on enrollment date.
- Work with key stakeholders to advocate that parties involved in medical education – including but not limited to residency programs, administration, fellowships, out rotations, physician assessors and research opportunities – do not discriminate against students taking family or parental leave.
Delegates also asked the AMA to “advocate for medical schools to make resources and policies regarding family and parental leave transparent and openly accessible to prospective and current students.”
Check out other highlights from the 2022 AMA Annual Meeting.