Summer. A time filled with vacations, family outings, BBQ's, ball games, pool-side, you get the picture. It's Summer in the USA and everyone seems to have wonderful plans to look forward to.
But, alas, the life of a resident and his family. Maybe one day this will be a joyous time of year, but for the last 5 it hasn't been, and for the next 2 it probably won't be.
We live in an area of the country that is dominated by white-collar workers. The major employer in the area has one of the most generous benefits and flex-time policies that I've ever heard of. So much so, that I've even considered getting a job there! They also work 4-10 hour shifts. They get ample vacation time. They even get paid paternity leave. They have their own private "employees and their family" resort.
We also live in a university town, and several of our friends are professors - translation: summers off. I am beyond jealous. First, that some of our friends get their husbands for most of the summer to themselves and their family. Second, that both of these groups of our friends get to take vacations. So at the moment, just about everyone we know is getting ready to go on vacation. I'm sad. We aren't going anywhere, again.
Can't we take a vacation you ask? Well, technically yes - realistically no. We haven't had a block of time off of any significance since we started residency. Yes, the hospital gives the residents vacation time - but no one uses it. (They also give sick days, but residents work sick-unless it is really bad. My husband has missed work because of illness once in 5 years). With the exception of the Intern year, he has yet to use even half of the vacation time they "give". The residents may take a day off here and there for various reasons, but a week or two? Never. We've even scheduled to have our baby on a Friday so my husband won't miss more work than necessary.
Residency programs aren't staffed, or have the flexibility, to cover a residents absence more than a few days without the other residents (and their families) feeling the burden. "I don't want it happening to me, therefore, I won't do it to them" seems to be the prevailing thought, and I can appreciate that. Or "if I take a week or two off for vacation, I might seem like I am not a team player or dedicated to my job". A residents job is to look good, they need good recommendation letters, they need as much time in the OR as possible, they need to be at work. They also need time-off. But, residency programs aren't known for their pioneering efforts in work/life balance.
There are some weeks when having one less resident wouldn't be felt, but those times can't be predicted ahead of time. And even if they could, they might not coincide with a time that is convenient to travel. Unless you are the type that can pick up and go at a moments notice, this strategy of "vacationing" doesn't work.
Until we are the master of our own schedule and case-load it doesn't look like we'll be vacationing. But I am telling you now, that first vacation we take is going to be awesome and longer than a 3-day weekend! Maybe that year we'll even take two!