Women surgeons want more flexibility with schedules, child care

Both men and women said they are happy with their career choices, but more women wanted part-time options, a new report says.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted Aug. 5, 2009

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Although male and female surgeons say they are satisfied with their career choice, women would prefer more flexibility in work schedules and more on-site child care facilities, according to a national survey of 895 surgeons.

The survey found that 83% of women and 78% of men who responded said they were well-satisfied with their careers and would choose surgery as a profession again.

But female surgeons were far more likely than male surgeons to postpone having children or not have children at all, according to the survey in the July Archives of Surgery (link).

Significantly more men (55%) than women (33%) disagreed with the survey statement that surgeons should have more part-time work opportunities with call cross-coverage by other surgeons, survey authors noted. Also, 87% of women versus 70% of men said child care should be available at work.

Surgery traditionally has been one of the most male-dominated specialties in medicine -- only about 14% of surgeons are women. But discussions about workplace changes that could encourage women to choose surgical careers are beginning, said lead author Kathrin Troppmann, MD, a gastrointestinal and laparoscopic surgeon, and associate professor at the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Troppmann, who has two children, said her own life is a balancing act. She is helped at home by her husband, who also is a surgeon, and at work by a supportive department chair.

"I definitely think you have the ability to fine-tune your practice," she said.

For instance, women interested in surgical careers could consider subspecialties with regular work hours, Dr. Troppmann said. A breast surgeon would not likely receive emergency calls, while a vascular surgeon would. The survey showed that 20% of women compared with 1% of men specialize in breast surgery.

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