Happy Friday y'all! Today marks a big Friday for me - I am finally done with my inpatient rotations and now have three months of elective time! I've been getting this question a lot, so I figured I could detail a bit of how I'm making "maternity leave" work during intern year.
For starters, it helped that our timing actually worked out and we got pregnant at the end of fourth year - the worst first couple of months of pregnancy (first trimester for me) were spent not having to do much and just wait for graduation. I started intern year right at the start of my second trimester and thankfully by then my energy was coming back and I didn't feel as sick. Even more importantly, though, was that I was able to talk with my program director and my chief residents (residents in their last year of training who are responsible for a lot more of the administration side of residency - making schedules work and settling conflicts, etc.) before starting residency and make the schedule best work for having a baby. For me, that meant getting all of my overnight and "harder" rotations like ICU out of the way early. It also meant saving up all of my elective time for right around when the baby was due - that way no one has to cover me on an inpatient rotation while I'm gone.
By law, I can still take up to 3 months completely off for maternity leave (although only a month of it would be paid). Because of ACGME requirements, though, (the folks who oversee graduate medical education, ie residency training), any time over one month spent outside of the hospital is time I have to make up in the next training year. So let's say I did choose to officially take off December, January, and February, I could come back in March, but then instead of finishing in June like everyone else, I'd have to stay July and August as well making up that time off. Although to some mamas it sounds unfair, for training purposes it makes total sense. This isn't an option for me, though, because as soon as we finish our programs in June we have about a week to move down to Miami before starting our advanced 3-year residencies. So all of that to say, yes, residents can take 3 months of maternity leave like everyone else, but because of our training requirements much of that time has to be made up, and not all of us can afford to make it up.
So back to how I'm making it work. As part of our training we do get 3 months of elective time, and 3 weeks of vacation time that comes out of this. All of this is paid time. Elective months can be spent doing a research project, working in a more schedule-friendly primary care clinic or other outpatient clinic, etc. Depending on what you choose to do you're looking at a 2- or 3-day work week, or coming in every day but only in the mornings, and getting your weekends off with no call or overnight responsibilities. So for me, I'll be starting elective next week, working in a Spanish-speaking primary care clinic a couple of days a week, pretty much until I go into labor. When I go into labor I'll pretty much just inform my program director and chiefs that I'm taking my 3 weeks of vacation (and again, because I'm on elective no one has to cover me). And I will have to come back to the hospital after those 3 weeks are up, but it will be to a much nicer elective rotation again, where I'm sort of just coming in part time. After my three months of elective time I'll head back to the wards on an inpatient service again. I think that's as good as it gets for having a baby during intern year and I really couldn't ask for more! N will also get elective time in December and paternity time whenever I head into labor, so I couldn't be more thankful for that. And I have my mother-in-law, pretty much the godsend of intern year, who'll be taking care of both babies while I'm away. I spoke a little more about this arrangement (and all of the other childcare options we've been through) in this post here! She's just as excited (if not more excited) than I am to add our second seat to our stroller that I just got for the baby shower! Can't believe we're about to be living that double stroller life lol!