In response to Dr. Martin’s Emergency Medicine News letter to the editor “Parenthood and Medicine, Each in Its Season”
One of the things I have learned from being a mom of six kids and a chair of a busy emergency department is rarely do things happen in the right “season”. Sometimes things, like life, happen all at the same time. When that happens, when it all happens and when it all happens unexpectedly……we support each other.
Last month, a physician in my emergency department found out his mother-in-law passed away when his distraught wife called him in the middle of a shift. We covered his shift and gave him time off to deal with grief and family obligations. A few months before that, a different front-line doctor needed a week to attend her sick son who had appendicitis. We found coverage for her as well. It wasn’t easy, but, of course, we made it work.
For the last few months we have had two of our full time staff out on maternity leave and this month we will have one out for several weeks of vacation in anticipation of the birth of his first child. It wasn’t easy and led to some creative scheduling but again we made it work.
I was a few months into my new role as a department chair when I got my own “emergency” call. My daughter, in school studying abroad in Scotland, had a ruptured appendix. As I booked the next flight to Europe, I was very grateful to my team for covering my clinical and administrative duties. It wasn’t easy on them, but they made it work.
Ironically, while I was reading your letter to the editor, I was in my assistant’s office. My own office was occupied by one of my physicians who was back at work on her first post-partum shift. We don’t have a formal lactation room, so I frequently offer my office to faculty who need a quiet private place to pump. I don’t give up my office because it is easy; I do it because it feels like the right thing to do.
I believe, Dr. Martin, that you misunderstood the entire point of the original article you were responding to. It’s not choosing motherhood over medicine. It’s about acknowledging that we all, men and women, parents or just people, will have some other issue that interferes with our ability to be unilaterally dedicated to the emergency department. Dr. Martin, it’s a sad truth that you too may face one day.
We are emergency medicine physicians. Here for patients 24/7/365. We are dedicated and caring. We go the extra mile every single day when it comes to our patients and our department. It shocks me that we would ever consider doing less for each other.
When you have a loved one in need, you will need support and that is what your team is for. We support you; we have your back, even if you don’t ask. We must allow you to integrate what makes you you with what makes you a great doctor, because no one can ever be just one thing at a time.