New lactation policy helps radiology residents feel less anxious on the job

A new case study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology detailed how one radiology department developed a policy in support of radiology residents who are breastfeeding mothers, which led to decreased anxiety and less time away from daily work.

“Given that many residents enter training during their childbearing years, it is imperative to consider how the work environment can be more welcoming to parents, specifically resident who are pregnant and give birth during their training,” wrote lead author Jessica B. Robbins, MD, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health in Madison, and colleagues. “If we do not heed this reality, we risk alienating women and having them withdraw, either partially or completely, from the workforce.”

The American College of Radiology (ACR) Commission for Women and Diversity advises that radiology and radiation oncology practices offer amenities such as readily available lactation facilities and reasonable time for employees and trainees to produce milk.

Multiple studies, the researchers wrote, have marked that female residents typically start breastfeeding during maternity leave; however, that percentage drops significantly as their residency work increases or they lack access to proper facilities. In addition, because of their department's lack of gender parity, asking for permission to leave the reading room to produce milk may be difficult.

“Although we cannot change the day-to-day workflow of the radiology department, we can support our lactating residents in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals by providing the opportunity and resources necessary to express milk for their infants, ensure their health needs are met, and continue to be clinically productive,” the researchers wrote.

Administration at their institution developed a policy supporting lactating residents. Faculty members were expected to be understanding of lactating residents’ needs. The policy also outlined the importance of patient care and encouraged lactating residents to take breaks at points when “there is minimal impact upon patient care activities.” Residents were meant to plan their days and notify their colleagues and supervising faculty of their needs.

The residents were also given three underused offices in the radiology departments that could adequately serve as lactation rooms and users were asked to make reservations using Outlook. All core educational conferences and meetings were live-streamed and recorded so lactating residents did not miss important educational information.

The policy was implemented on July 1, 2018. Upon implementation, residents appreciated the policy as it has helped to bring forward conversations about lactation needs. Additionally, they appreciated that the lactation rooms were close to the department, which decreased the time spent between the two areas.

In all, the residents valued the steps taken to ensure they meet their lactation needs, while also meeting work requirements. “This has resulted in decreased anxiety and time away from clinical service,” Robbins et al. concluded.