WMIG Update: Balancing Motherhood and Residency

Karen Serrano, MD


April 21, 2010

As a second-year resident in emergency medicine and mother of three young children, balancing work and family has been an ever-present challenge in my medical career. While life can feel crazy at times, I think that having children has shaped the type of physician I have become. In fact, I would argue that motherhood has made me a better emergency physician.

There are actually many similarities between taking care of children and managing the flow of a busy emergency department. Multitasking is a reality both for moms and emergency physicians. At home, I must be vigilant, managing all three children simultaneously and knowing at which point to intervene. Similarly, in the emergency department, I must monitor multiple complicated patients at a time, keeping tabs on who needs interventions and prioritizing them. I love this aspect of emergency medicine, and the fact that I am always multitasking at home means these skills are continually being honed.

Motherhood has also prepared me to take care of pediatric patients and their families. Assessing children is much easier when I know from my own experience what a two-, four-, or six-month old should be able to do. I can also empathize with parents and enjoy being able to use my own parenting experience to counsel families, such as when I recently reassured a mother about her toddler's nursemaid's elbow, explaining that it had happened to my own daughter twice. Sometimes it seems that the fact that I have three children carries more weight with parents than the medical degree emblazoned on my scrubs.

Finally, having kids helps keep me balanced. There is nothing more rejuvenating than coming home from a tiring shift and having an excited child greet me at the door with lots of hugs and kisses. Furthermore, my kids force me to leave my work at work. By virtue of their young ages, my children demand my full attention when I am home. I have learned to focus on my kids when I am home and schedule specific time for working on residency-related projects. Ironically, I think this forced balance helps me enjoy both of my roles more--that of a resident and as a mother.

In summary, I am grateful to be a resident, with all of the opportunities for learning and growth that it entails. I also love my children and am encouraged to see the ways that being a mom is helping me to become a better doctor.

Contact Dr. Lisa Mills (LMORR11@aol.com) or Kate Filipiak (kfilipiak@aaem.org) for more information or to join the Women in Medicine Interest Group.


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