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Becoming a Parent During Training

By: Stephen Doyle, DO, MBA

This post is a part of our Life as a Fellow blog post series. This series includes "fellow life lessons" from current trainees in leadership with CHEST.


Everyone experiences a life-changing event in one form or another. Last year, I remember my wife suggesting she was pregnant like it was yesterday. We had both returned from separate trips from out of town on a Saturday evening, and we simply took an at-home pregnancy test. Soon after seeing those two pink lines, we went to dinner to celebrate knowing our lives were about to change forever. The hostess asked for my number to place us on a waitlist. I heard the question, yet was unable to provide an answer. What was my phone number? I stood there like a kid at a spelling bee trying to spell “conscience” in front of the entire school. “6-1... umm..” Thankfully, my wife had her wits about her and spouted out the number while I attempted to collect myself.

During the excursion from our home to the dinner table, my mind raced with a variety of thoughts: How was I going to be father? What did I know about being a parent? Can we afford to have a baby? How do I do all of this while I’m still in training? How do I continue my professional and extracurricular involvement? Will my clinical training or educational experience suffer? And maybe most importantly, how do you even change a diaper?

Fast forward 8 months, and I’m sitting in the hospital I work in holding my healthy baby boy. This moment solidified everything for me; I decided my number-one priority was and forever will be my family. I told my son I would always be there for him. In order to fulfill this promise, I felt the need to make some ground rules:

  • Develop a schedule: We transitioned to a combined calendar with our work schedules, important events, and family appointments. This helped me avoid picking up an extra shift or scheduling a meeting that interfered with a family event.
  • Leave work at work: This was more challenging than I anticipated. While I’ve always finished notes and projects at the hospital, I’ve had a difficult time staying away from my email at home. Since my son arrived, I made a conscious effort to not have my phone on me at all times. I’ll either leave it at the door or on a table. By avoiding screen time, it allows me to be more present while at home.
  • Do not overcommit: Time maintenance is a problem for many trainees at baseline; now I added a more disturbed sleep schedule and the urge to spend more time at home. To combat this I developed an algorithm to determine experiences/projects I would participate in and those I would not.
  • Create a budget (Excel is your friend): This is sound advice for anyone, but outlining our future provided us piece of mind moving forward with expenses (eg, education, retirement, mortgage, student loans, etc). Seek professional advice as needed and explore options that fit your needs.

Thus far, these general rules have assisted me in successfully creating a work-life balance. While I’m not home for every bedtime or bath during busy clinical rotations, scheduling family time and utilizing free time during “lighter” rotations allows me to play and relax with that carefree baby at home.

Dr. Stephen DoyleStephen Doyle, DO, MBA, is a chief fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Ohio State University. His scholarship interests include medical education and evaluating mentorship during training. His clinical interests include advanced lung disease and critical care medicine.