How to balance your GP career with parenting

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Dr Katy McCready talks to Prospect Health about striking the right work-life balance as a GP and parent

GPs and parenting

Balancing work and children is a challenge that many parents face during their careers and GPs are no exception. Dr Katy McCready, former salaried GP and mother of three children, shares her most valuable tips for balancing your GP career with parenting. She discusses how to overcome some of the obstacles GPs might encounter during maternity leave, how to re-engage with your career after a break and the option of shared or male parental leave.
 
We are expected to be parents
First and foremost, Dr McCready considers General Practice as a medical branch that supports maternity leave and expects GPs to be parents during their career. During her own career breaks she encountered only minor obstacles and her experience of the maternity leave process was positive on the whole.
 
However, she feels that she would have faced greater difficulties as a Partner GP: “Now I’m a GP Partner I’m glad I’ve already had my children, as a partnership contract can be less generous and you may have to cover the costs of a locum to cover your absence.”
 
She also recognises that some GPs may face a lack of flexibility on their employer’s part during the early stages of their GP training, or trouble arranging time off work. In order to tackle such difficulties, Dr McCready suggests “having an open conversation with your employer”.
 
Opportunities during maternity leave
There are also opportunities that parents can take advantage of whilst on maternity leave. For example, ‘Keeping In Touch’ days - these aim to smooth the transition between maternity leave and re-entering the world of work by offering a certain amount of time you can spend at work whilst still officially on leave. You can use the time to update your skills, for instance in training sessions, and you will also be paid for the time you are at work.

There may also be opportunities for out-of-work hours, a ‘portfolio career’, extensive part-time work opportunities or working as a maternity locum. However, Dr McCready warns that in some regions of the country it can be problematic to find replacements due to the current GP recruitment crisis.
 
Shared parental leave: an option worth considering
It might also be worthwhile exploring shared parental leave as an option. The concept has yet to be widely embraced in General Practice, which, according to McCready, relates to cultural issues rather than General Practice. She feels that most support groups are aimed primarily at women and therefore may deter men from taking parental leave.
 
However, due to the increasing demand for GPs and patients’ rising expectations over the last decade, GPs are at a high risk of burnout, which might lead to an increase of shared and/or male parental leave in the future. Dr McCready adds: “It’s possible that this division of duties will become more commonplace in future.”
 
Click here to read Prospect Health’s original blog post: From a GP's perspective, how can your career and parenthood be balanced?

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