What does family friendly mean?

I was told prior to admission at my school that it was family friendly. Upon recently finding out that I was pregnant the dean of students congratulated me and told me I could drop back a year or continue coming as much as possible and make up missed exams in the week following finals. I was told that it was school policy to wait all the way to the end of the year and take exams the week after finals. Is this really family friendly? That doesnt seem very flexible to me in that I will have to go back and take exams from material that I havent covered in months right after studying for finals.I am looking for anyones thoughts on this? Do you know your schools policy? What happened if/when you had kids during school?

I have a young child and I’m a med student. Policy seems to be really common. My school also calls itself family friendly but I’m not really sure that any medical school is, to be fair. They all have a schedule to follow, exams that need to be done by a certain time, all on a very strict schedule until the end of second year for step 1 and beyond.

Are you due in the middle of the school year? Is this your first? Whether you take a year off is up to you, ultimately. If you are able to make up the exams on their schedule, you don’t have to defer for a year if you don’t want to. I’d suggest also checking out mommd.com . One of the regular posters there had her child during Chrismas break of her second year and started classes again a week later because she didn’t want to defer.

Good luck and congrats!

Yes this is my first baby and I am due about 2 months before the end of my second year. I am not willing to defer so I will just do my best not to miss exams and to make them up when I am allowed, I was just curious what other schools policies are and what is considered lenient etc. I realized I never really knew what “family friendly” meant. Just to allow you to make up missed exams at the end of the year doesnt in itself seem family friendly. Any health, weather, death type emergency could necessitate need for someone to make up exams so I imagine all schools have a policy for this. Lectures arent recorded or posted online so I guess I just dont understand what they are referring to when they use that phrase. They are doing nothing to make my life any easier other than allowing me to retake exams when they tell me just as they would for any other type of excused absence (and I dont think being in the hospital and giving birth is a stretch on needing an excused absence). Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth here?

I’d say they aren’t going nearly as far as they could. One of my classmates had a baby fairly early in 2nd year. All our lectures are audio recorded, and the powerpoints and audio files are posted on-line. Thus many students do what is jokingly referred to as “HBL” (home-based learning) and only show up for required labs and tests. We had some required Clinical Skills labs, most of which had an alternative activity to makeup (write a paper, etc). The tests had to be made up as soon as she was able to come in and take them…2 weeks after the test date was the latest she took. She did 4 alternative activities to make up labs, and made up Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine labs one-on-one with the TA after being out for 4 weeks. Seems to me that was much more “family friendly”.

Our school also has a support group/social group for spouses and with couples activities, and some kid-friendly activities.


I second Kate. There’s not a lot that’s family friendly in there. While I understand it from the school’s perspective (they are offering what they consider a fair option in allowing you to defer) from a realistic life perspective it doesn’t seem like they consider pregnancy much different from a car accident.

WVSOM’s policies go so far as to outline that you can get an excused absence to be PART OF a wedding, but not to attend one. They really go out of their way to let you know who to talk to about any issues and are very supportive of all the students.

I’m not sure what you can do in your situation. If you’re not willing to defer I would see if it’s possible to get friends in class to record lectures for you, and keep extremely organized binders of notes so any tests you do miss do not become disasters at the end of the year…

Just as a warning: I’m a bit of a realist.

So, to the school, pregnancy isn’t too different than a car accident: you won’t be in class and they have to make accommodations for you.

“Family friendly” is a marketing/recruitment tool. I haven’t seen it backed up in any real way in my life. But it sure sounds nice, right? Schools really don’t need to make accommodations for parents if they don’t want to. FMLA doesn’t apply to medical students, etc.

The traditional wisdom is to plan your due date for during any breaks or during 4th year so that no classes are missed.

I am learning as a rule of thumb never take anything the admissions office tells you as the 100% truth. They eveidently are part of the marketing arm of the school. Just a warning to those interviewing out there, which is in no way to imply that I am directing that comment toward any school.

I don’t mean to hijack your thread but this is one of the worries I have. When is the best time to have a kid in medical school? Is it the fall semester of your first year, or the summer after your first year?

I’m not in medical school yet, but I will be in one next year (Fingers Crossed - Fall 2013). We have an 8 month old now and we want more (hopefully 2). My wife wants to stay at home but I also want to help out as much as I can.

Honestly, I think that question is one of those that’s just going to be different depending on whether you are actually giving birth to the baby or jumping in after that part. =)

You actually have a few more options, being the one who is NOT going through the physical part of child bearing. Yes, you’ll still be busy and sleep deprived alongside your wife, but you won’t have to worry about taking time off from classes to physically heal from pregnancy, etc.

So for you, I’d say any summer or any time 3rd and 4th year would be doable…

Med school and family… whew! We are crazy! And I’m loving it…

Syr__eng2md, my advice is to wait until you have been in medical school for a little bit to see how it is all going to shake out. My husband takes care of our toddler and as an OMS-1, I don’t do any of the primary functions in our house. I try to help out as much as I can but my husband does the majority of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, bathing, putting our child to bed, getting him ready in the morning business, daycare drop offs, pickups and sick child visits to the doctor. I help out when I can but the majority falls to him. I’m hoping to get more efficient with my time as I get further in but right now, that is how it is. It would be extremely stressful to have a spouse at home with both a toddler and a newborn while trying to figure out this whole med school thing (if it is even possible to figure it out).

Whether a school is considered family friendly may depend on who you ask and what their expectations are in terms of what they want to do with their children. A lot of men will tell you that a program is family friendly while women may not. I wish that we could have more honest discussions about these issues so that people aren’t surprised by their school policies like the OP. The reality is that a larger percentage of the student population is older than the average age of 25-26 and we do often have young children in medical school, mostly because we don’t have any choice. Biology necessitates that we have children by a certain point. But maybe it is just getting ready for what is to come. Most female physicians that I’ve shadowed have not said that medicine is a particularly family friendly career path.

I can give you some general information about my school. We do have mandatory attendence (15% of classes may be missed per block but require an excused absence). We can get a medical leave of absence for up to 6 months. Anything further than that requires readmission.

Thanks guys for the advice (carrieliz and telomerase). There should be a guide to medical schools for older non-traditional applicants with children. Things like: Are the lectures online? Are tests flexible? Is attendance mandatory? Can I take a class the summer before med school?

My first choice school posts lectures online and attendance isn’t mandatory so if I get in, that should alleviate some of those pressures. Plus, there’s an option to take one class in the summer before medical school to lessen the coursework the first semester. After that though, I’m sure things pick up pretty fast. I know the second year will be insane with boards.

It’s good to hear what other people are going through so I can adjust my strategy as I try to balance my family needs and my desire to be a doctor. Thanks guys! Since both my wife and I are working now, one card we can play is to reduce our expenses further and save up so that we can hire help for a few months when the baby comes. Of course, that’ll only be for the short-term so the real test will be when I’m in my 2nd year and I’ll be at the library studying most of the time and my wife will be at home dealing with both kids at home.

In a previous life, when my wife and I had twins while in the middle of graduate school. The school was family friendly, though my wife still had virtually no maternity leave. In fact, one professor called her while she was still in the hospital. Still, they treated us decent so ‘family friendly’ can exist. I recently received an invitation to interview from a school, and they gave no flexibility on dates, and pretty much say, interview on this date or we’ll find someone else. This suggests to me, that they are not going to work with me much. I want to interview there, but I do have young children that get sick, and need a father. So, I am not sure this place is right. I’ll be talking to the schools about my situation as I can, without jeopardizing acceptance. If I find out anything specific, I’ll let you know.

When my husband and I were in graduate school, it was WAY more flexible than medical school. I would not use that as a yard stick because it is like comparing apples and oranges. I think that reasonable accommodations for a medical school are to let the medical student retake any exams due to labor/delivery and recovery periods and also helping the student by finding a way to videotape missed lectures. I have male classmates who are expecting children during this first year. They can get a few days of excused absences but they are still responsible for material/exams/mandatory labs.

Whether you go to a school that has mandatory attendence or not is up to you. I prefer to learn the material in a classroom so that I can see what the professor thinks is important and ask questions if the material is unclear. There is an incredible amount of material that you need to learn so I just want to study in the most efficient way possible. If you are not in the classroom, you will be going over the material somewhere, it might just be easier to learn it during class.

There will be times when you will find balance and other times when your spouse will feel like a single parent and they need to be okay with it. If they aren’t okay with this, I suggest finding another career. Third and fourth year rotations, intern year and residency: you probably will spend way more time away from your family than you would during the first two years of med school. The attending physicians that have mentored me also mentioned that the first few years of being an attending was overwhelming.

About the interviews: I honestly think that unless you rocked the MCAT and have a very high GPA, I’d make the interview time work. Of course they don’t have to be flexible about dates: they have 7-10 (or more depending on the school) pre-meds who are willing to take that spot in a medical school class.

To me, family friendly means flexibility. But, I think flexibility should be a general requirement for any school even if you don’t have kids. For example, I love that I don’t generally have to go to class - I can drive my son to school. I am at home studying today - and I will get to spend some time with my children today. Yes, its hard. No matter what, there will be things that you will miss. But, as long as you don’t have to miss the important things like your child’s first day of school, it should be fine. The best way to assess family friendliness if you are applying is to ask the admissions office if there are any students with families that you could email and ask questions. That is the best way to get an unbiased (or as close as possible) view of what its like at that particular school for a parent. I haven’t had any trouble - and generally my school is fairly flexible with making up tests or dealing with life issues. I am not an absentee parent - although my husband does more than his fair share of parenting - but he also knows that I am doing this for OUR family as a whole and for OUR future - so I make him my partner in this as much as possible so that he knows how important he is in all of this.