Doctors always make good parents

Work and family: Always a balancing act

It is not easy to dedicate oneself to one's job and career as well as to family life in a satisfactory manner - especially for doctors.

Photo: JuanCi Studio /

For doctors, the “compatibility of family and work” often means that the day should have more than 24 hours. Even without a partner and children, leisure activities are neglected in many places. If the area of ​​responsibility is expanded to include the role of mother or father, the balancing act becomes greater and in some cases almost impossible to manage.

In 2016, both parents were employed in six out of ten German families with young children. Problems arise for the mothers especially in the professional area, as they are too tense with their families. With fathers it is exactly the other way around. The gender difference and the conventional distribution of roles are still a real problem in the progressive 21st century.

The solutions that are circulating are part-time, home office, daycare, all-day school, nanny, grandparents - the list can be expanded as required. But does the compatibility even exist? Isn't it much more a matter of adding two completely different areas of life? And in the end, a sum that can no longer be paid without mentally and physically prepayment? The word compatibility suggests that it is only a question of personal effort to have family and work coordinated.

But what is decisive are the framework conditions. Politically, the course has been set in many areas for each family. Given the precarious demographic development in Germany, this should come as no surprise. For example, the parental allowance, which has existed since 2007, was supplemented in 2015 by the parental allowance plus and the partnership bonus (both parents work part-time and receive extended parental allowance) and thus support the egalitarian employment of men and women.

Because women in particular have been working shortened so far and are therefore also affected by the negative effects: lower wages, arrears in retirement provision, longer training periods, fewer opportunities for advancement, less representation in management levels, especially in medicine. The right to return to full-time employment following a part-time position (bridge part-time), which has been in force since last year, could cushion these negative aspects.

In addition to the working conditions for the parents, childcare is the second major component in successfully combining family and work. This is where the Federal Government's “Good Day Care Act” comes into play, which among other things provides money for improving the quality of day-care centers and setting up extended opening times for employees who work in shifts. Since 2013, there has also been a legal right to a place in a daycare center from the age of one.

Are these approaches sufficient? What do young doctors want? A survey by the Hartmannbund among 1,437 doctors in further training on the subject of “How well can we become good doctors?” Showed what constitutes an obstacle to the compatibility of family and work from the perspective of the young doctors: Too many services or a rotating shift system, missing flexible working hours by the employer, missing or inflexible daycare places as well as pressure and high expectations from colleagues and the boss.

"It is important to me personally that I work as little planned overtime as possible and get home on time." Photo: private

Head physicians and clinic managers have it in their hands to make the framework conditions more attractive for younger colleagues. They are rewarded not only by increasing numbers of applicants, but also by motivated employees who demonstrably increase their productivity. "In order to withstand the medical profession for a lifetime, I need a good level of resilience: and you get that through your family and a fulfilling private life," says Dr. med. Marie Samland to the point. The mother of three children (9, 6 and 4 years old) and trainee trauma surgeon and orthopedist at the Leipzig University Hospital, works in a clever part-time model: “I have planned one week off every month, so there is time to plan with the family and enough time off Work for myself. ”She also got the impression that this regulation increases the understanding of colleagues. They knew that it was not 100 percent available. That is better than signaling full readiness for action through full employment and then adding extra requests to the duty roster every month.

If used wisely, part-time models also offer the opportunity to react quickly to different workloads. "The creation of family-friendly working conditions is one of the most important future tasks of a hospital," says Dr. med. Inke-Iria Bruns, National Secretary of the German Medical Association, sure. And indeed, many hospitals have understood this and advertise family-friendliness. For doctors in training, however, it is sometimes difficult to see how reliable some promises are.

The certification format “audit berufundfamilie” from the non-profit Hertie Foundation provides orientation. Hospitals that have been awarded the certificate implement measures for family and life phase-conscious personnel policy. Germany's largest network “Success Factor Family” of the Federal Family Ministry guarantees an employer who is committed to the topic and exchanges ideas with other companies. There is also a brochure for employees with lots of useful background information.

However, you can only be absolutely sure that your ideas about the compatibility of family and work are in agreement with specific questions. Personal contacts in advance of an application are valuable. Because then you can find out what the concrete implementation looks like. “At the end of the day, it is advisable to sit in and look for a conversation with as many future colleagues as possible on this topic. Only then will it be possible to assess whether the clinic's family friendliness is also in line with reality, ”advises Samland.

The branch office offers an attractive alternative to employment in a hospital. Dr. med. Daniel Peukert, resident orthopedic surgeon and trauma surgeon, has decided to work in a group practice and has not regretted the step. The compatibility of work and family played a decisive role in his decision. "One of the main advantages of having my own practice is the flexible organization of working hours," says the father of twins. “It is possible to hand the children over to the daycare center in the morning. There is also the possibility of taking an afternoon off, for example to take part in children's events. It's also nice to be able to take the weekends off and spend with the family and the lack of night shifts. "

Daniel Peukert: “As a doctor, I like to treat my patients. This is also one of the reasons why I usually don't look at my watch at work. But that often means that the family falls short. "

Many doctors postpone family planning until after their specialist training in order not to have to accept an extension of the further training period. However, the acceptance of a longer break decreases again from the senior physician level. And chief physicians working on parental or part-time jobs are certainly the exception. But especially at management level, setting an example of the compatibility of work and family would be an important signal and encouragement to imitate. Does the hierarchy level play a role in the implementation options?

“There are phases in which you want to concentrate on your job and do not allow parallel occupations. In order to be able to continue working meaningfully as a doctor immediately after the intensive family phase, it is strategically good to be high up within the responsibilities and hierarchies. Because, depending on the level of responsibility, you are able to help shape your working hours - ideally to organize yourself, ”explains Prof. Dr. med. Anke Lesinski-Schiedat.

Anke Lesinski-Schiedat: "A scientific career means a challenge, regardless of family, and compromises in specialist training or medical work."

The senior physician at the ENT clinic of the Hanover Medical School and Medical Director of the German Hearing Center in Hanover, as well as the mother of two now grown sons, has brought career and family “under one roof”. Of course it wasn't always easy. But it gives the colleagues courage: "Because of the individual, patient-oriented processes, there are many ways to individualize working hours within the medical company." However, it is always important to give and take between boss and colleague on the one hand and the family on the other. And she emphasizes: “Not only mothers and fathers should have the right to work hours that are family-oriented. Non-families also have interests outside of medicine that must be respected. "

The higher the professional status, the less often doctors decide to start a family. This phenomenon is more pronounced in women than in men. Probably because they already have to fight against the famous “glass ceiling” and believe that downtime due to family formation and management will put them behind.

The problem of reconciling work and family cannot be dealt with without addressing the issue of equality between women and men: In the cross-factional "Berlin Declaration" by 17 women's associations, the authors of the federal government attest in a mid-term review only a mediocre testimony with regard to professional equality between women and men Men. Especially in management positions in the hospital sector, there are still too few female chief physicians and university lecturers.

The problem of reconciliation for male colleagues is often less in the professional than in the family area. Modern fathers not only want to be “breadwinners” but also want to take on a social father role. Two-month parental leave has long been established as the standard for medical fathers in many hospitals - a development towards equal division between the two parents would be desirable. But men still struggle more than women with a lack of acceptance. For some chief physicians it seems strange that the “breadwinner of the family” voluntarily stays at home, prefers “household chores” to career and accepts financial losses. It is not uncommon for generations to collide here that have been socialized in completely different ways (see previous post).

So there is still a lot to be done to establish a comprehensive and satisfactory work-life balance for all doctors. Is it worth all the effort? The arrangements with the babysitter or au pair, agreements with the partner, fights with the boss and colleagues? "When I walk in the door after a hard day's work and my children throw themselves into my arms beaming with joy, then the importance of my life shifts," reports Samland. “And everything that I've experienced before is put into perspective very quickly. Any failure or accusation then fades into the background. And I'm happy again. ”■