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Flexibility—Making It Work for You!

It’s no secret that women and men are different—they think differently, work differently, produce, and re-produce differently. And it’s no surprise that the once male-dominated healthcare workplace was, and continues, in many ways, to be structured based on a now out-dated model of physicians, mostly men, who worked alll hours and came home to their wives who did everything else. Those days are gone. But what is not gone is the rigid structure that accommodated the way men think, work, produce and re-produce. Over the last 30 years, merely increasing the numbers of women physicians has not been enough to create substantive change to accommodate their needs and thus exploit their talents. Trying to re-shape these female square pegs into the male round holes has been the primary thrust for accommodation. It hasn’t worked. A new campaign is underway. One of its strategies is re-engineering the healthcare workplace for greater flexibility. Flexibility is for not only the young women but also for the new generation of enlightened young men who want a different life trajectory. Fourteen hour work days, sleepless nights, and children who grow up without one parent present for their all-too-brief childhoods, are not their dreams either. So the time has come for us to build a new mousetrap, to re-engineer the healthcare workplace and to accommodate these new expectations. And the movement is beginning. We just all need to help expedite the inevitable. Here’s how. A lesson from Julie Welch, MD and her co-workers is a good place to begin. Hot off the press, in their May 2011 article, in the Journal of Women’s Health, they reported on flexibility in work-life policies at medical schools in the big 10 conference (football buddy schools—how apropos). What they found is not surprising—most schools have fledgling policies/programs in place at the university level, which may or may not be accessed by medical faculty. So what’s so important? Three things in my mind: a list of specific areas one needs to consider, a scoring system, and comparisons. Areas to consider:

  • Maternity, paternity, and adoption leaves.
  • Probationary appointment extension.
  • Part-time—appointments, tenure track and health benefits.
  • Child care options and lactation policies.

Not a bad start. The scoring system used FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) as the bare minimum. And Welch et al. promoted a higher degree of flexibility than I have yet seen. Not too shabby. And it gets better.  Then they started to compare how already competitive institutions, vying for recognition on the football field, would react to comparison in an even bigger arena. That is, how they treat their most valuable assets—their faculty. Men and women, physicians or not, this is your chance to look at what you have and what you don’t have in workplace flexibility. And then figure out what you need to change to make it work for you. At one end of the career spectrum, if you are young, in the “making a choice” stage, then use their scoring system to gauge your next stop or your contract negotiating points. At the other end of the career spectrum, if you are empowered to make change, here’s a great place for you to measure up to where you should be. I am so please that Dr. Julie Welch is a member of the Inevitable! Check out the member directory and become a member, too. Thank you Julie for Expediting the Inevitable: the full, fair, and flexible integration of women physicians into the healthcare workplace.

2 Notes

  1. Keep up the good work for a great cause that has gone unnoticed for far too long!
    Tammy, Nurse Practitioner

  2. It’s great to see a great number of varying beliefs. It’s too bad the politicians can not be as kind when expressing their opinions.


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