Emergency Medicine and a Family?

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    Hi so Im 15 years old Im strongly considering a career as an ER doctor but Ive also always wanted to have a family and everyone is telling me that I cant have a family and have my dream job and I was wondering if anyone could tell you if it was possible for me to have both and the best way to do it ? would the hours and the long nights really be a problem? Are those even a major factor? How long does it take to be able to control my own scheduel? Any thong you can tell me helps!!


    I am not an ER doctor so can’t answer all of your questions, but I do know that most ER doctors have families. It is somewhat family-friendly in the sense that it is shift work, but of course many of those shifts are night shifts. Whether the night shifts are a major factor would probably depend on your situation. If you are a single mom with multiple small children and no reliable childcare, then that would be a big problem. If your husband is a very involved parent with a flexible job, or if you have lots of helpful relatives who will do nighttime caregiving, then it might not be a problem at all. I think the total number of shifts per month will also really affect your quality of life.

    You are young, so you can arrange things so that you are more likely to be successful at combining a family and your dream job. Marry someone who truly wants you to be successful in medicine and who will take an equal role in parenting your children, or who will even be the primary parent. (Conversely, do not marry a surgeon who *says* that he supports your career but then refuses to do any childcare because it would interfere with his career.) Study hard so that you will have more jobs to choose from. Be frugal so that you can afford to take a job that has better conditions rather than having to take the job with the best pay.

    Good luck!


    Hi, you can absolutely combine Emergency Medicine and family. I am a Board-certified Emergency Medicine physician and I have 3 kids. My first child I had during 3rd year of residency. My 2nd child I had during my 2nd year of working part-time in community Emergency Departments (EDs). My 3rd I had during my 5th year of working part-time in the ED.

    I realized the summer after my computer science (CS) bachelor’s degree that I wasn’t certain where I was heading in life, other than the default computer science graduate school since I’d been doing well and that seemed the automatic choice. I realized that what was most important to me was being able to have my own family, and being able to be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I wanted to be involved with my kids. I wanted quantity time in addition to quality time. I wanted to do something for work that was personally satisfying yet that I could do part-time. I decided that summer to become a doctor (part-time). In my particular case, it took me 14 years from that summer until I was practicing Emergency Medicine part-time with a 1.5-year-old son. But that’s because I needed to finish my pre-meds (just a few classes during 2 years of CS graduate school), apply to med school (1 year), attend med school (4 years spread over 7 years because I found a research area at the intersection of CS and Medicine that I loved and didn’t want to leave behind so I finished my PhD program also), and do residency (4 years). It was all worth it!

    There are some hospitals that hire part-time emergency physicians. The problem I see with being e.g. a 50% full-time equivalent (FTE) is that one owes at least 50% of holidays, weekends, and overnights. What I did instead was worked at 2 different EDs initially, later 3, all “per diem”. That means that they didn’t owe me anything (no guaranteed shifts, no benefits) and I didn’t owe them anything. But they all had various needs of a couple shifts a month on average so I had no problem getting my ideal 6-8 shifts per month amongst the 3 hospitals. I did not sign up for ANY holidays during those 4.5 years. I did not sign up for any overnights after my couple months as an Attending! I did do weekends and I did do Friday evenings and other evenings till midnight or 2am etc. I usually did the weekday day shift that was during a particular hospital’s monthly meeting for the ED physicians. Even if you decide to work “full time”, that usually means 16-18 shifts per month in emergency medicine.

    Yes, sometimes I was gone for 12 or 14 hours from home for one shift. We were able to combine help from family with help from a part-time nanny. After my second child was born, we got an au pair from Au Pair in America which really was great for flexible (unusual) childcare hours. I nursed all 3 of my babies – I used a breast pump at the hospital immediately before a shift, immediately after a shift, and once for 15-20 minute in the middle. During residency, the once in the middle was usually in an empty patient room that the charge nurse would give me, and I’d use one hand to look up labs on a computer or call consults or PCPs etc during the pumping!

    You are really young and have a LOT of time to think about your various options. The bottom line is that Emergency Medicine and family definitely can work well together. There’s no pager so it’s easier to plan for one’s childcare.

    (Incidentally, unplanned, I got introduced to the healthcare technology industry and now work full-time as Chief Medical Officer for a digital health start-up. It’s my first time back to full-time after 10 years of part-time work while raising the kids. The kids are old enough now – 12, 9, 7) and I absolutely love my job. Still maintaining my Board certification but no longer working in the hospital. Just want to add that caveat.)

    Good luck in all of your endeavors – you’ve got lots of options, lots of time, and can change your mind along the way!

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