New program supports clinicians returning to work after parental leave

New program supports clinicians returning to work after parental leave

Dr Ritu Chaurasia, a Paediatric Registrar at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and PRAM participant, with her baby

For many, returning to the workforce after parental leave can be challenging. It can take time to harness the buried knowledge that once was and to navigate through the emotions that come with parenthood.  

Dr Sasha Symonds, a Paediatric Emergency Physician and Co-Medical Lead of the Critical Care Simulation Team at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick co-developed PRAM, or Paediatric Trainees Returning After Maternity or Extended Leave, as it had become increasingly obvious that the training and emotional requirements of those returning to work following parental leave differed from other trainees.  

“There was an overwhelming need for a course to re-educate our staff so that their knowledge is up to date, enabling them to re-enter the workforce feeling supported,” Dr Symonds said.  

Dr Sasha Symonds and Dr Ritu Chaurasia do hands-on education

The first of its kind, PRAM provides hands on education and mentorship for paediatric nurses and doctors returning to the workforce after parental leave. It is facilitated bi-annually by the Critical Care Simulation Team at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick which is proudly funded by Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation.

The free full day workshop consists of various sessions led by senior staff specialists which focuses on refreshing key clinical knowledge, accessing the latest clinical guidelines,and any recent changes in clinical practice. With a core focus on wellbeing, workshops are a safe space for discussions around the challenges and differences individuals face following parental leave.  

“We all face the reality of emotions, all of which seem to shine through after having children. There is an unspoken and unique trauma created from treating children who look the same or are of similar age to your own,” Dr Symonds said.

“PRAM immerses our clinicians in high fidelity simulations of deteriorating or critically unwell patients and empowers them to navigate through their emotions and be prepared so that in the moment the focus can remain on the patients.”                                                                                                                                     

Dr Ritu Chaurasia, a Paediatric Registrar at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and PRAM participant, had recently taken a year of maternity leave after the birth of her first child, when she heard about the course from colleagues.                                                     

“As if adjusting to parenthood was not enough of a challenge, before I knew it, I was already getting ready to adjust to juggling a baby at home and going back to work. Although the year went by quickly, it felt like an eternity since I had been working. I was nervous about being thrown back into a high-pressure environment and looking after many sick children, after an entire year of focusing on just one well child,” Dr Chaurasia said.                     

Dr Ritu Chaurasia with her baby

This opportunity for clinicians like Dr Chaurasia, to regain confidence in their abilities is invaluable. 

“In the workshops we were given scenarios where we filled the roles of a medical team and responded to patients. There were individual skills sessions on common tasks like cannulation, intubation, lumbar punctures and catheterisations and group discussion sessions on fluid management, blood gas and x-ray interpretation - things that we would do daily when back at work,” Dr Chaurasia said.

"The facilitators would give us feedback on how the child was progressing given our actions and we could see the observations changing and results of our investigations that we requested in real time. It was a fantastic mock experience that felt extremely real when in it.”                                                                                                                                                       

Following the success of the pilot course held earlier this year and with the ongoing and generous support of donors, there are plans to extend offers to staff at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and expand to state and national levels, to capture as many clinicians transitioning back into the workforce from parental leave as possible. 

“PRAM made returning to work much less daunting. After the course I was excited to get back into peadiatrics and use the medical side of my brain again. It helped me realise that even though I had been away from work for a long time, the muscle memory and knowledge of years of work experience before I had taken a break was still there,” Dr Chaurasia said.