Editor’s Note: Second in a two-part series
Lest anyone forget, it is essential to support workers having children for one reason—the continuation of the human species, says Rachel Lovins, MD, SFHM, who directs the hospitalist program at Waterbury Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. For HM program directors, that means following pregnancy labor laws. But it also should involve reasonably accommodating hospitalists who are balancing their new baby’s needs with the demands of their profession, says Dr. Lovins and other HM leaders.
“As there are more women in medicine, everybody needs to be more aware of this issue. We don’t want to make good talent feel uncomfortable with the process of taking maternity leave and reducing time,” says Michelle Marks, DO, FAAP, SFHM, director of the Center for Pediatric Hospital Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
All HM program directors need to be aware of such federal laws as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm), as well as the corresponding laws of the state in which they work. Directors can contact their human resources (HR) department for assistance.
“Calling them upfront will save a lot of headaches later on,” says Jasen Gundersen, MD, MBA, CPE, SFHM, chief medical officer of the hospital medicine division in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for Knoxville, Tenn.-based TeamHealth.
Here are some other recommendations on how HM directors can best manage pregnancy issues affecting their team:
The “R” in Relationship
There are many reasons why the director of a hospitalist group should develop a good relationship with the providers in their group, but one of them is that a hospitalist is more likely to tell her director sooner rather than later that she is pregnant, Dr. Marks says.
“Knowing your staff well and knowing them personally helps a lot, too, because you can gauge where they are going personally, as far as marriage, children, that type of thing,” she adds.
The earlier a group leader knows a staff member is pregnant, the more time they have to plan for maternity leave. And the better the plan, the easier the leave is on the entire group, says Dr. Gundersen.
Generally, finding out that a physician is pregnant within three to five months of conception provides enough time to make adequate arrangements for coverage, Drs. Marks and Lovins note.
Before scheduling a meeting to discuss maternity leave and plans for returning to work with the hospitalist, the group leader should call HR to see if such a conversation is permissible, says Dr. Marks. A better approach might be to wait until the hospitalist broaches the subject.
“So many times the hospitalist will ask for counseling as far as what are her options of coming back,” Dr. Marks says. “That opens the door for an open discussion.”
Once the conversation starts, the group leader should gauge the length of maternity leave, her plans for coming back full time or part time, and the anticipated scheduling limitations or childcare considerations, Dr. Gundersen says.
“That’s not to say the pregnant woman can really predict all the time what’s going to happen,” says Kerry Weiner, MD, MPH, chief clinical officer for North Hollywood, Calif.-based IPC: The Hospitalist Company, Inc. “Obviously, it’s a medical condition that can change and everyone understands that. It’s getting a feel of what you can actually know at the time.”
If it’s the HM director’s intent to call the physician while she is on leave to see how she and the baby are doing and how the maternity leave is going, that should be discussed during the conversation, Dr. Gundersen says.