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Surgical trainees’ experience of pregnancy, maternity and paternity leave: a cross-sectional study
  1. Helen Mohan1,
  2. Oroog Ali1,
  3. Vimal Gokani1,
  4. Ciara McGoldrick1,
  5. Peter Smitham2,
  6. J Edward F Fitzgerald1,
  7. Rhiannon Harries1
  1. 1 Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), London, UK
  2. 2 British Orthopaedic Trainees' Association (BOTA), London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Helen Mohan,Association of Surgeons in Training, London, London, UK; helen.mohan{at}


Background Internationally, supporting surgical trainees during pregnancy, maternity and paternity leave is essential for trainee well-being and for retention of high-calibre surgeons, regardless of their parental status. This study sought to determine the current experience of surgical trainees regarding pregnancy, maternity and paternity leave.

Methods A cross-sectional anonymised electronic voluntary survey of all surgical trainees working in the UK and Ireland was distributed via the Association of Surgeons in Training and the British Orthopaedic Trainees’ Association.

Results There were 876 complete responses, of whom 61.4% (n=555) were female. 46.5% (258/555) had been pregnant during surgical training. The majority (51.9%, n=134/258) stopped night on-call shifts by 30 weeks’ gestation. The most common reason for this was concerns related to tiredness and maternal health. 41% did not have rest facilities available on night shifts. 27.1% (n=70/258) of trainees did not feel supported by their department during pregnancy, and 17.1% (n=50/258) found the process of arranging maternity leave difficult or very difficult. 61% (n=118/193) of trainees felt they had returned to their normal level of working within 6 months of returning to work after maternity leave, while a significant minority took longer. 25% (n=33/135) of trainees found arranging paternity leave difficult or very difficult, and the most common source of information regarding paternity leave was other trainees.

Conclusion Over a quarter of surgical trainees felt unsupported by their department during pregnancy, while a quarter of male trainees experience difficulty in arranging paternity leave. Efforts must be made to ensure support is available in pregnancy and maternity/paternity leave.

  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • pregnancy
  • surgical training
  • surgery
  • surgical education

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  • Contributors RH and JEFF conceived and designed the study. RH, OA, HM, CM, PS and JEFF designed the questionnaire. RH collected the data. RH and HM analysed the data. RH, OA, HM, CM, PS and JEFF were responsible for compiling the manuscript and approving the final article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests The authors are either current or previous surgical trainees and elected members of the Council of the Association of Surgeons in Training (Registered Charity No 274841) or the British Orthopaedic Trainees' Association. JEFF is now an employee of KPMG Global Health Practice, Honorary Clinical Advisor to the Lifebox Foundation, and Trustee of the SURG Foundation research charity. The authors have no other relevant financial or personal conflicts of interest to declare in relation to this paper.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was not required for this voluntary opt-in survey. The ethical dimensions of this non-mandatory, anonymous evaluation survey were considered and no concerns were identified.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.