Explore your options and understand important considerations for moms deciding to leave medicine to stay home and focus on family.
If you’re a soon-to-be new mom considering leaving medicine to stay home you’re not alone. Since 1999, the number of women deciding to be stay at home moms has been quietly rising in the United States. Stay at home dads are also on the rise. Call it a millennial backlash, but highly educated professionals are deciding to leave or put their careers on hiatus to stay home when their children are young.
It can be a heartbreaking decision to leave a career you worked so hard for, especially in medicine. But deciding to stay home doesn’t have to mean completely giving up your working life.
What if there was a way to maintain your practice and still spend time at home with your babies? Many parents are coming up with creative solutions to piece together a part-time career in medicine for the flexibility to be home while kids are young while still contributing to the family finances.
This article walks you through options and considerations as a doctor turned stay at home mom (or dad!) so you can have the flexibility you desire without forgoing your career.
Leaving Medicine to Be a Mom
To leave or not to leave?
The first question you must ask yourself is whether you actually want to leave medicine for an extended period or just take a long maternity leave. However, many parents don’t know the answer until they are actually knee-deep in the throws of parenthood.
Perhaps your baby will refuse a bottle and you’ll be tied to breastfeeding (more common than you think!). Or maybe you’ll feel so isolated at home that leaving your baby for work is the only way to find sanity. Either way, think about what you might want and start to develop action plans for potential scenarios.
Find out what kind of leave your employer is willing to offer. Is part-time work available? How long can you stay home before you need to make a decision? Do you have local childcare available if you want to go back soon after leave? (Pro tip: Get on daycare lists ASAP when pregnant if you’ll need additional care.)
Consider the pros and cons of staying home
It’s helpful to make a list of your own pros and cons with your partner, but you can use this as a starting point.
More time with your kids (sometimes this will feel like a con!)
Better behavioral outcomes (studies show kids at home have lower stress and aggression)
Less “mom guilt” for not being home or not meeting the demands of work
Flexibility to go back to work when it feels right
Feeling “left behind” in your career or vs. your peers
When to reenter the workforce?
Many stay-at-home-moms opt to stay home until the kids enter kindergarten - free public school for the win! But this can mean 5+ years out of full-time work. So, some parents choose to stay home just until the kids are out of diapers or the last is out of the “baby stage.” Ultimately, there is no right answer on when to return - each family situation is unique and you need to do what feels right for your family and your children.
Flexible Job Options for Physician Moms
It may be 3 months, 6 months, or even a year or more, but at some point you may want to exercise your brain muscles and start seeing patients again. The good news is there are flexible job options for remote and part-time physician work. Consider these options for getting back into medical practice after a leave of absence.
Practice video telemedicine
Also known as synchronous telemedicine, telehealth physicians meet with patients virtually through a secure web portal. Video telemedicine means you can work from home and select a schedule that works for you. Typically you’ll need to commit to specific time blocks and practice at least 10 hours a week.
To make it work, find a part-time babysitter or work with your partner to set aside a few hours a few times a week. Not only will this give you a sense of accomplishment to be practicing medicine again, but you’ll look forward to the working “break.”
Read our article on how telemedicine jobs work to learn more about video telemedicine opportunities, telehealth salary, and how to find a telemedicine job.
Practice asynchronous telemedicine
Asynchronous telemedicine is an extremely flexible option for physicians. Allowing you to work from home, you’ll review medical information on your own time (when baby is napping!) and provide medical recommendations based on a patient survey or written evaluation.
Read our article on telemedicine job options to learn more about asynchronous opportunities and how to get started in telemedicine.
Practice traditional medicine on a part-time schedule
While not as flexible as telemedicine, going back in a part-time capacity can be a good option for when baby is a little older. Not only does it get you out of the house, it can be a real sanity saver to interact with other adults. Eventually, you could combine part-time work with telemedicine calls to supplement your income and still maintain flexibility for your child’s doctor appointments, playgroups, events, and other life surprises.
5 Tips for Being a Doctor and a Mom
1. Keep up your licensing to make it easier to reenter the workforce when you feel ready.
Every state has its own CME requirements to maintain licensure. Typically these are required every 1-3 years and range from 0-150 hours depending on the license cycle. (full list of CME requirements by state) Since state requirements for return vary, keeping clinically active by practicing intermittent patient care can make it easier to return to medicine after a leave of absence.
2. Stay connected to your network via periodic coffee, lunch dates, or even playdates with other physician parents.
You never know when your peer or supervisor connections might become useful. Sometimes getting recertified by the state requires practice hours supervised by another physician called a preceptor. Many physicians find it challenging to find a doctor willing to take on the supervisory role, and often call upon old connections to help out upon return.
3. Save some money for a formal reentry program.
Sometimes your new employer will require you to complete a formal refresher program like CPEP or Drexel University. The assessment and practice-based learning can cost upwards of $10,000 so it’s nice to keep or contribute to a nest egg when you are planning a leave.
4. Know the facts on physician reentry.
Only about half of state medical boards have a formalized physician reentry policy, and many are in development. It’s worth contacting your state medical board before your leave to find out what their current requirements are.
2.8 years is the average length of time out of practice when a state board will require recertification. See if you can find out what your state requirements are for time off.
Patient care for relicensure is not required by most states but can help make your case for relicensure, particularly in a state without a formal reentry policy. (READ: practicing part-time telemedicine can help)
5. Lose the guilt and enjoy your time off with your kids!
The beauty of having a family is that you and your partner get to choose how to raise and care for your little ones. If that means taking time off from work then that’s your choice and shouldn’t be judged by anyone else. The decision to stay home is an empowering one and one that you are entitled to. Keep that in mind when you face criticism from yourself or others about your decision.
Resources for Physician Moms
Physician Moms Group: A community of over 71K members supporting female physicians with children
MomMD: A community for women in medicine with a message board forum, job boards, CMEs, and articles
Mothers in Medicine: A group blog written by a collection of physician mothers on all topics related to medicine and motherhood
Group on Women in Medicine and Science: An organization devoted to gender equality and career advancement for women in the medical and science fields
Can You Be a Doctor and a Mom? Yes!
Having a family and wanting to stay home doesn’t mean the end of your medical career. Modern technology allows you the flexibility to work from home if you desire and still see patients.
Remember that there are options for working remotely as a physician while taking a leave. And be empowered to make the choice that’s right for you, your family, and your kids, not what society says you should be doing.
If you’re curious about telemedicine jobs for new mothers, sign up with Wheel to learn more and start thinking about the type of role that could be right for you.