If given the opportunity, most female surgeons would choose the same career again, even though it had a major–and not altogether positive–impact on their lives, according to a study in the Archives of Surgery.
For the study, Kathrin Troppmann and colleagues from UC Davis mailed surveys to all 3507 surgeons that received certification from the American Board of Surgery in the years 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.
The scientists received 895 responses; 178 from women, and 698 from men.
Although both sexes reported they worked too much, more than 82% of female respondents and 77% of male respondents said they would choose their profession again. More than 75% of the female surgeons and 91% of the male surgeons were married
Female surgeons were less likely to have children (64% vs 91%) than their male counterparts, and tended to have their first child at an older age—after they had entered practice. Men tended to have their first child during residency.
For 27% of female surgeons, the spouse was their child’s primary caretaker. The spouse of male surgeons assumed these responsibilities nearly 80% of the time.
Female surgeons were more than twice as likely to assert that time-off for child-rearing was important after the birth of a child, and that child care should be available at work. Only 9% of females and 3% of males actually took time off after the birth of a child.
“A career in surgery has significant lifestyle implications: the profession is associated with high degrees of patient acuity, significant on-call responsibility, and irregular work hours, all requiring a significant commitment of personal time,” wrote the authors.
They concluded that strategies to increase recruitment and retention of female surgeons should include flexible work schedules and improved maternity leave and child care options.