Introduction: Neurosurgical training often overlaps with when residents may be starting a family. There is an increase in women going into medical training and a cultural shift of men as primary childcare givers. This calls for a debate on how to retain and attract residents having children . This is balanced with the need to optimise surgical training opportunities and run an efficient service.
In the UK, women can take upto 52 weeks leave and men 2 weeks . Since 2015, the giverment has introduced the Shared Parental Leave policy (SPL) which allows parents to share up to 52 weeks of leave. There is no data on the utilisation of this allowance by neurosurgical residents.
Methods: Online anonymised survey approved by the Society of British Neurosurgeons (SBNS) academic committee. The questions established the stage of training at which parental leave was taken, available support upon return to work, consideration of job share or part time employment and suggestions to improve implementation of SPL within the demands of a neurosurgical career.
Results: 50/88 (56.1%) respondents were parents (10 female, 40 male)
of which all mothers and 30/39 (76.9%) fathers took parental leave.
5/8 mothers and 11/31 fathers would consider shared parental
leave in the future. 8/31 fathers and 3/8 mothers would job share.
7/8 mothers were offered no support on return to work. A recurring
concern was decline in surgical skills.
Conclusions: Our results suggest limited support is available for neurosurgeons taking parental leave. Potential improvements as suggested by respondents include cultural acceptance and facilitation of job sharing or part time work, staged return, mentorship, choice of rotation location and accrual of annual leave. Open discussion is needed in order to offer options that balance the rigorous standards required to become a competent neurosurgeon with the realities of family life in line with other surgical specialties and other countries.
Patient Care: The paper focuses on supporting trainees taking maternity/ paternity leave. Residents who are well supported are more likely to transition back into work more smoothly and less likely to leave training. This in turn results in better trained surgeons which improves patients' outcomes.
Learning Objectives: There needs to be a wider discussion on supporting the needs of neurosurgical trainees as they start family life whilst balancing the rigour of training.