Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Many U.S. Medical Schools Fail to Offer 12 Weeks of Paid Parental Leave

Paid parental leave has numerous health benefits for both parents and infants, including a decrease in postpartum depression, a decrease in infant mortality, and improved parental-infant attachment. A study published Monday in JAMA Network Open suggests that many U.S. medical schools are failing to provide such leave to physicians.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports 12 weeks of paid parental leave based on the evidence of parental and infant benefits with this duration of leave,” wrote Jessica Slostad, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and colleagues. “The lack of paid parental leave [is] associated with higher rates of physician burnout and work-life integration dissatisfaction and may further perpetuate sex, racial and ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in academic medicine.”

Slostad and colleagues analyzed the parental leave policies for academic faculty in 87 of 90 medical schools that were ranked by US News & World Report from December 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020. For each medical school, the researchers recorded the total number of weeks of paid and unpaid parental leave, including any requirements to use vacation leave and/or sick leave, for birth, nonbirth, adoptive, and foster parents. The analysis revealed the following:

  • 63 medical schools (72.4%) had some paid leave for birth mothers, but only 13 medical schools (14.9%) provided full pay for at least 12 weeks for the birth mother. The median duration of leave at full pay for birth mothers was 4 weeks.
  • 37 medical schools (42.5%) did not provide birth mothers paid leave at full salary.
  • 24 medical schools (27.6%) did not provide any paid leave for birth mothers and required that vacation, sick, and/or short-term disability leave be used to have any parental leave.

Leave policies were even more limited for nonbirth parents, as well as for adoptive and foster parents:

  • For nonbirth parents, 11 medical schools (12.6%) offered at least 12 weeks of paid leave, 37 (42.5%) provided 1 to 11 weeks of paid leave, and 38 (43.7%) had no paid leave. The median duration of paid leave for nonbirth parents was 3 weeks.
  • For adoptive parents, 12 medical schools (13.8%) offered 12 weeks of paid leave, 1 (1.1%) offered more than 12 weeks of adoption leave at full pay, 39 (44.8%) offered less than 12 weeks of paid leave, and 35 medical schools (40.2%) had no paid adoption leave. The median duration of paid leave for adoptive parents was 4 weeks.
  • For foster parents, 6 medical schools (6.9%) offered 12 weeks of paid leave, while 65 schools (74.7%) offered no paid parental leave. The median duration of paid leave for foster parents was 0 weeks.

Slostad and colleagues concluded, “The definition of parental leave is expanding, and we call for 12 weeks of paid parental leave with policies that are clear and inclusive at the institutional, regional, and national level.”

In an accompanying editorial, Erika L. Rangel, M.D., M.S., of Massachusetts General Hospital described the need for a cultural shift in medicine: “Although legislation and policies for paid leave are important steps in the right direction, building a culture supportive of work-life integration in medicine requires not just a mandate, but a movement. … As a profession, a cultural movement in support of work-life integration must recognize that periods of additional expenditures are a long-term investment in the health, well-being, and future productivity of our workforce.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Paid Maternity Leave Improves Health, Mental Health for Both Mothers and Infants.”

(Image: iStock/Edwin Tan)

Cast Your Ballot in APA’s 2023 Election by January 31

One week remains to vote in APA’s 2023 election. Please take the time to learn about the candidates and cast your ballot. Your vote has an impact on the future of APA and psychiatry.



The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.