A new study has found that surgeons married to physicians face more challenges in balancing their personal and professional lives than do surgeons whose partners work in a non-physician field or stay at home.
The research focuses specifically on how surgeons fare in being partnered with other surgeons, with other (non-surgical) physicians, with non-physicians or with spouses who stay at home.
The researchers used data from a large 2008 national survey of members of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and set out to find how surgeons in dual-physician relationships differ from other surgeons whose partners are not physicians in their demographics, practice characteristics, family lives, distress (ie, burnout, depression, and quality of life), and job satisfaction.
They found that surgeons in dual physician relationships had a greater incidence of career conflicts and work-home conflicts whereas surgeons partnered with fellow surgeons faced even greater challenges in these areas than surgeons partnered with non-surgeon physicians.
In addition, surgeons in dual-physician relationships were more likely to have 'depressive symptoms and low mental quality of life' than surgeons whose partners stayed home.
"To help facilitate the lives of dual-career couples, health care organizations should consider coordinated schedules, daycare provisions in the workplace, adjusted timelines for promotion and tenure, and planning for spousal employment during recruitment," said Liselotte N. Dyrbye of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota and the lead author of the study.
The survey was completed by 7,905 members, of whom 7,120 (90 percent) were married or in domestic partnerships. Nearly half (3,471 of 7,120 or 48.8 percent) of surgeons' partners did not work outside the home.
Among the remaining 3,649 surgeons whose partner worked outside the home, 31.9 percent (1,165) indicated their partner was a fellow physician; nearly a third of the physician couples (335 of 1,165) were surgeon-surgeon couples.
The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.