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Medical residents help craft national leave policy

Sep. 10, 2020, 9:26 AM

Christin Giordano McAuliffe, MD, and fellow VUMC medical residents played a key role creating more flexible leave policies for physicians-in-training across the country.
Christin Giordano McAuliffe, MD, and fellow VUMC medical residents played a key role creating more flexible leave policies for physicians-in-training across the country. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Kathy Whitney

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which oversees physician certification in the United States, announced the adoption of a “progressive leave policy that will offer residents and fellows more flexibility, reduce stress and increase autonomy in making life decisions, especially with regard to family and parental leave.”

And a group of Vanderbilt University Medical Center residents played a pivotal role in making it so.

Christin Giordano McAuliffe, MD, Kristy Rialon, MD, Dustin Hipp, MD, MBA, and Kate Krucoff, MD, published a paper, “Multispecialty Resident Perspectives on Parental Leave Policies,” in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education in June 2019.

They outlined the results of a resident perspective exercise they conducted at the May 2017 CRCR meeting in which 34 residents from medical, surgical and hospital-based specialties participated in a two-phase discussion designed to address resident perspectives on varying aspects of parental leave and eventually lead to recommendations for policy development at the institutional, accreditation and specialty board levels.

From those responses Giordano and Krucoff developed recommendations and Rialon took them to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) board on their behalf.

“In February, we were invited to the parental leave workshop. It included stakeholders from ACGME, Graduate Medical Education (GME) and ABMS. From that workshop, right before the pandemic, we formed a committee that distilled down the thoughts and prevailing recommendations that we now have as a progressive leave policy for ABMS,” Giordano said.

Starting in July 2021, all ABMS Member Boards with training programs of two or more years duration will allow for a minimum of six weeks away one time during training for purposes of parental, caregiver and medical leave, without requiring an extension in training.

“This is amazing, life changing,” Giordano said. “People are recognizing that physicians are human and have children and we need to have a plan for that. We are starting to realize the mental toll that training and post training takes on physicians. It’s time to come up with more humane policies. This was a complex change involving many stakeholders, but ultimately, it was the right thing to do and I’m so glad this is in place for future trainees.”

The newly approved policy offers ABMS Member Boards the flexibility to create a parental, family or medical leave protocol that best suits the training required for their specialty and/or subspecialty.

“I would add that this is not even really about the trainee — it’s about our responsibility to children that they get a healthy start in life and to sick or dying family members that they receive the appropriate physical and emotional care at critical times,” said Kyla Terhune, MD, associate dean of Graduate Medical Education, and vice president for Educational Affairs at VUMC.

“Time away for trainees during these times are often hard, intense work, and may even contribute to making one a better physician, caregiver and leader, positively impacting future patients. We are proud of Dr. Giordano for her work and advocacy.”

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