Being a Hospitalist and a Parent: Balancing Roles with Grace (Or Not)

By Heather E. Nye, MD, PhD, SFHM |  February 14, 2020 | 


Your 6-year-old has said to you…

True / False: “Mommy/Daddy, I drew a picture of you for your birthday with papers all around you, doing your ‘computering,’ since that’s your favorite thing to do…”
True / False: “Mommy/Daddy, there’s early release today at school. You never come get me up at pickup time. Can you please ask your boss if you can leave early to get me today?”

Your important meeting runs until 5 p.m. You must pick up your 5-year-old by 5:30 at daycare, a 20- to 30-minute drive away. You…

a) Inform meeting leaders that you’ll need to leave at 4:45p to pick up your child
b) Simply pick up and leave at 4:45p and hope no one notices
c) Sweat bullets, leave at 5:01p come hell or high water, commit innumerable moving violations on drive to daycare, and arrive at 5:29
d) Arrange a back-up plan with sitter, spouse, family or friend if late
e) Make peace with the $10/min. late fee and call it a day OR leave child on sidewalk for 5 min.; justify later as character-building

Make your heart race or sink just thinking about it? We have a session coming up at Hospital Medicine 2020 that we think you’ll enjoy…

Much of the novel content in SHM’s Annual Conference now emanates from ideas coming through the Open Call for Proposals site. While hardly a novel concept, balancing roles as a parent and hospitalist will be the focus of a first-time, highly anticipated session at HM20. The session will feature a diverse panel of hospitalist moms and dads engaging in a moderated discussion around common issues facing providers when child rearing or caring for dependents (including aging parents).

Panelists are under no illusion that they have (or anyone has) the secret sauce to perfect child-rearing but remain hopeful that examples of how some have managed will build community through shared experiences and help others find their own way. Attendees will hear four diverse perspectives on strategies for balancing work and home responsibilities from parents of different genders, children’s ages, and professional roles. Sharing stories (and likely a few laughs along the way) is intended to normalize the challenges many of us face (or will face) and brainstorm different ways to approach a number of topics, like:

  • When your own child is hospitalized
  • How our role as a parent may inform our work as a health care provider – and vice versa
  • Doctoring your kids at home – how much is too much?
  • Finding support as a parent or caregiver in the workplace
  • Climbing professional ladders between baseball practices
  • Special needs children
  • Single parenting
  • Odd schedules, child care options and COSTS

Panelists are more excited about this session than most hospitalists are about heart failure:

Sunil Sahai (partial empty-nester):

“I think the most important message of the panel is that you are not alone in juggling parental responsibilities. We all have family obligations, including those of us who have gone over to the dark side of administration…”

Avital O’Glasser (mom of young ones):

“There’s so much of our experiences and ourselves that we bring to the hospitalist role, and I’m excited to be able to share how my identities as a physician and a parent have intersected over the years.”

David Alfandre (working father):

Talking about parenting can sometimes feel like talking about politics. It’s so personal that we don’t want to be judged. But this session is aiming for something different. I’m grateful that we have the opportunity this year to come together as a community of clinicians to share our experiences and hopefully begin to build a resource that we can all benefit and learn from.”

Blog-like, unofficial depictions of struggles, solutions, disasters, and lessons learned will be shared for anyone who may have to contend with the demands of a busy, odd-hours job and dependents. Priorities clash regularly, but humor and artful ways of approaching these issues are often the key.

The session will also aim to gauge interest in other ways of connecting on issues around parenting/medicine balance through SHM, such as possibly forming a Parenting in Medicine Special Interest Group or creating a repository of resources to assist institutions in supporting clinicians with children and other recommended reading.

We don’t profess to have the right answers, but we have our answers—and some may suit (or horrify or humor) you. We hope you’ll stop by our session at HM20 on Thursday, April 16 at 4 p.m. for what is sure to be an engaging conversation – and confirmation that you are likely not alone in how you answered those first two questions!

Haven’t registered for HM20? Learn more here.

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    swati mehta February 14, 2020 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Very insightful post! As a full time working mom of 2 and in an administrative leadership position I almost always feel there is no balance it’s me walking a tight rope or juggling circus balls – almost always feeling guilty neglecting kids or work. Being a perfectionist at a task doesn’t help either! Thank you for writing this!

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About the Author: Heather E. Nye, MD, PhD, SFHM

Heather E. Nye, MD, PhD, SFHM is a Professor of Clinical Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, Assistant Chief of Medicine at San Francisco VA Health Care System, and Director of the SFVAHCS Consultative and Comanagement Services as well as the Veterans Integrated Perioperative (VIP) Clinic. She received her MD, PhD from Yale University and completed a combined residency program in medicine and pediatrics at the Harvard Combined Program (Brigham & Women's, Massachusetts General, Children's Hospital of Boston). She has practiced as a hospitalist at UCSF and the SFVAHCS since 2003.


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