Childcare: An Overlooked Challenge of the Post-COVID Phase

A group of female radiologists advise practices and departments to consider and address providers’ childcare needs when designing plans to re-open and resume normal work schedules.

While healthcare facilities and outpatient centers are re-opening across the country, schools and daycare centers largely are not – and not having a safe environment to watch over their children is presenting a work-related complication for many providers.

In an opinion article published on June 18 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, several female radiologists raised this concern, asking that it be a factor in any decisions made about office openings. They used nearly 200 responses from a recently conducted survey to support their request.

According to the survey data, the Michigan Medicine authors noted, 92 percent of providers have children that require some type of care or adult supervision. Of that group, 59 percent have more than one child. In addition, 32 percent indicated they would have less flexibility to work and could face significant hurdles without the having a daycare resource available.

The survey outcomes also indicated that there is an emotional toll associated with this problem.

“It is notable that several respondents mentioned the stress of working during the pandemic, feeling generally overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities, or a sense of desperation,” wrote the team led by Aparna Joshis, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the University of Michigan. “These feelings cannot be ignored as they signal burnout and could contributed to development of mental health disorders in radiology workers.”

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But, the lack of daycare resources is not the only complicating factor in this situation. Many survey respondents, including providers, technologists, staff, and residents, also indicated that, even if childcare were available, being on reduced pay during the pandemic makes affording it difficult. And, because the older population is considered a higher-risk group, many are reluctant to call upon grandparents are a temporary solution.

There could be ways to overcome this problem, though, the team suggested. Larger facilities and academic medical centers could consider implementing free or subsidized childcare options, and smaller groups could also explore subsidies or helping provider-parents identify childcare environments that have longer hours.

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In some ways, the team said, the survey reveals that women in radiology are feeling the strain of the pandemic more stringently than their male counterparts. In fact, the team asserted, another survey out of England revealed that women were 1.5 times as likely to have either lost their job or quit during the outbreak. And, pre-pandemic Michigan Medicine survey indicated that women were already feeling the effects of burnout more than men in the specialty, 38 percent to 19 percent, respectively.

This data is important when considering the career experience for a woman in radiology, the team said.

“These factors could have an important downstream effect on females’ career advancement as well as happiness and well-being,” they said. “This highlights the importance of watchful support of radiology workers, especially women and other vulnerable groups, such as single parents, who are likely to face even higher pressures.”