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Parental Leave

The birth or adoption of a child during medical school or residency is occuring more often and medical schools are being challenged to respond.

What are the messages you receive about:

  • starting a family ?

  • staying home with children ?

  • family care-giving roles ?

  • building a career ?


What are your feelings toward parental leave during medical training?


Are your views gender biased?


If you wanted to take parental leave during your medical training, would it influence your choice of speciality?


How might your feelings be different if you were you of a different gender?

The information below might help you to explore your thoughts on parental leave.

The following is an excerpt from a paper written by Jessica Hopkins (University of Western Ontario), Sadiqa Khan (Queen’s University), and Robin Williams (Queen’s University) [6]

"Parental Leave for Medical Students"

Medical students start their education, on average, at the age of 23. Add 4 years of medical school and up to six years of residency, and the average specialist physician could be 33 or older when they start their career. This period of time is one in which many people choose to start their families. We cannot ask our future physicians to put their medical education over their desire to raise a family.

The PAIRO (Professional Association of Residents and Internes) contract for residents recognizes that residents need the option of starting a family while completing their training and includes regulations for parental leave as well as a modified workload during pregnancy[7][8]. The CFMS (Canadian Federation of Medical Students) has a national charter for senior medical students which includes urging each medical school to have a policy on parental leave emphasizing flexibility for the student[9]. The CMA (Canadian Medical Association) recommends that "medical schools and training institutions demonstrate their commitment to physician well-being by providing effective role modeling and mentorship programs that value adequate rest, sleep, exercise, healthy diet, leisure and family life"[10]. Implicit in this recommendation is parental leave for medical students.

In keeping with policies of PAIRO, CMA and CFMS, it is our belief that a parental leave policy should be in place for all medical students, at all levels of training and at all medical schools. Maternity/parental leave policies should be publicized and actively supported by the schools. In order for this information to be readily accessible to students, it must be freely available, and easy to find, on the university website as well as in undergraduate offices.

Recommendations for parental leave:

  1. Each medical school should have a formal policy on parental leave for medical students at all levels. This includes those who are adopting a baby or child, married couples, common law couples and same sex couples.

  2. The policy should emphasize flexibility for the student.

  3. The policy should cover maternity leave and parental leave, for the birth or adoption of a baby or child.

  4. The policy should cover modified workload during pregnancy if required by the student, for example no night call after a certain point in pregnancy and maximum length of shift.

  5. The policy should ensure that the education of the student is not compromised.

  6. The parental leave should be granted without prejudice to academic standing or eligibility for financial support.

  7. All medical students should be made aware that such a policy exists and the policy should be readily accessible.

1.After reading this document, have your feelings toward parental leave changed? What are your thoughts on parental leave now?


6. J. Hopkins, S. Khan, and R. Williams. Parental Leave (Summer 2002 Research Report). [Website] . Accessed July 12, 2004.

7. H.M. Swick, P. Szenas, D. Danoff, and M.E. Whitcomb. (1999) Teaching professionalism in undergraduate medical education. Journal of the American Medical Association 282: 830--832.

8. PAIRO, 2000-2002 PAIRO-OCOTH Agreement. Section 15 and Attachment 3. April 2000. Accessed on July 23, 2002 at:

9. Canadian Federation of Medical Students, National Medical Student Charter. Accessed on July 23, 2002 at:

10. Canadian Medical Association, Physician Health and Well-Being. 2000 Accessed on July 23, 2002 at:"

All references for this section