Male clinicians shun family-friendly policies

November 15, 2002

Male hospital doctors claim to be very happy and involved with their family roles, but admit they rarely adjust their long working hours to suit family commitments, with many missing key events such as birthday parties.

Karen Johnston, of Ulster University's School of Business Organisation and Management, revealed pilot study findings to an international conference run by Aberdeen University on fathers and the changing nature of work.

Ms Johnston said the initial survey of male clinicians in Northern Ireland, set to be expanded in a two-year project, showed "some quite extraordinary contradictions" between the doctors' attitudes and choices on the balance between work and family life.

Almost two-thirds of the doctors surveyed worked more than 60 hours a week, with almost a fifth working 80 hours or more. But about half claimed that work did not interfere with the time they spent with their families. Comments included: "They have to learn what professional means, even at a young age."

Conference organiser Lorna McKee, of Aberdeen's department of management studies, said many men reported difficulties in balancing work and family life. She said the government was trying to address the issue with a range of family-friendly initiatives such as paternity leave.

But Ms Johnston said that only a minority of doctors were aware of these initiatives, which were seen as irrelevant to the medical profession. Most had never taken time off for family reasons and, while they saw their peers and superiors as supportive, two-thirds claimed that their career progression would be jeopardised if they refused assignments because of family responsibilities.

Three-quarters said they were satisfied with life as a whole and 19 per cent said they were highly satisfied. Half the doctors surveyed said their career had a higher priority than their partner's.

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