gms | German Medical Science

GMS Journal for Medical Education

Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

ISSN 2366-5017

Family-friendliness in Medical Under- and Postgraduate Training

Editorial medicine

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  • corresponding author Jörg M. Fegert - University Hospital Ulm, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychotherapy, Ulm, Germany
  • author Hubert Liebhardt - University Hospital Ulm, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychotherapy, Ulm, Germany

GMS Z Med Ausbild 2012;29(2):Doc38

doi: 10.3205/zma000808, urn:nbn:de:0183-zma0008086

This is the English version of the article.
The German version can be found at:

Received: March 21, 2011
Revised: April 6, 2011
Accepted: January 16, 2012
Published: April 23, 2012

© 2012 Fegert et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.


This special issue of the Journal of Medical Education came to be as a result of a conference on “Family-Friendliness in Medical Under- and Postgraduate Education” on 14th and 15th October 2010 in Stuttgart. This event was held to present the results of the study on family-friendly medical studies in Baden-Württemberg conducted by the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychotherapy, University Hospital Ulm and funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts of Baden-Württemberg. The study itself was inspired in 2008/2009 by the Dean of Studies Medicine at the University of Ulm who initiated a pilot study on part-time opportunities in medical school. We are pleased to present the results of these studies in this issue and thus to make a contribution to family-friendly organisation of medical studies. Our cooperation partners are also taking the opportunity of presenting their proposals for practical solutions in this issue.

In the first article of this issue the Parliamentary State Secretary Mrs. Widmann-Mauz describes the activities of the Federal Health Ministry, which set up a round table on the “Reconciliation of Family and Career in Healthcare” in 2010. The long-term retention of junior medical and care professionals requires both concrete support for families operations and a flexible framework which can be seen, for example, in the implementation of postgraduate study regulations or maternity leave regulations.

In the second contribution Ministerial Director Tappeser (Ministry of Science, Research and Art, Baden-Württemberg) stresses the importance of gender equality in science policy, especially in health research. Being able to reconcile career and family is one of the most important pillars of the equal opportunities policy of the Ministry of Science of Baden-Württemberg. On the one hand this includes family-friendly infrastructure at the universities and on the other hand, programs promoting career and family, which prevent female doctors from taking family-related career breaks.

In the third article, we address fundamental problems and the need for more family friendliness in medicine by presenting current statistical data, areas of health education and policy in need of action but also challenges for medical schools and health care in general.

In the fourth article Mr. Stutzer from Family Research Baden-Württemberg discusses the impact of demographic change on the sustainability of health services and the resulting need for action. He argues that family-friendliness and solutions to reconciling family and career must be part of successful human resources policies, using examples from current healthcare industry.

In the fifth contribution, Niehues et al. present selected results of the Baden-Württemberg study on family-friendliness in medical school. This research article presented here includes insights into the reasons for the small proportion of student parents in medicine. In the light of special compatibility issues, the respondents of all five medical schools in Baden-Württemberg came to the conclusion that family-friendliness at their university at present is only mediocre at the moment. Using empirical data this contribution describes problem areas and possible solutions for the universities.

The sixth contribution by Liebhardt et al. presents practical approaches for a family-friendly medical school at the University of Ulm. Apart from a central family service, effective advice services for student parents are part of systematically interlinked advice services with accompanying mechanisms such as monitoring of study progress, parent passports or training contracts.

In the seventh article Mrs. Leiblein, director of the Student Union of Heidelberg, explains the services offered by the student unions, in particular the provision of childcare, using the example of the student union of Heidelberg.

The following short papers sum up the panel discussion on “How much Family-Friendliness does Medical School Need?” of the conference on Family-Friendliness in Medical Under- and Postgraduate Education which was held 14/15 Oct 2010. The views of the panellists, Prof. Bitter-Suermann of the Medical Faculties’ Day (MFT), Mrs Struck from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), Dr. Benninger from the State Medical Association, Prof. Müller-Schilling representing the teaching staff, Mr Strehl from the Association of University Hospitals of Germany (VUD), Mr Schütze from the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts of Baden-Württemberg and Mrs Heinemann of the National Association of Medical Students in Germany (bvmd), which were penned by them prior to the conference can be found here in the conference proceedings.

In the ninth article Dr. De Ridder from CHE Consult GmbH, as a conference moderator, summarizes the results and identifies seven areas for action, some of which had been discussed vigorously at the conference workshop. She comes to the conclusion that attitudes must change towards the need for family-friendly study and work organisation in medical schools, hospitals and (training) hospitals, so that family life can become an integral part of the work-life balance.

The tenth article is an interview held during the conference betwenn Dr. De Ridder and Mrs. Struck, Head of Unit on maternity protection in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth on the importance of maternity protection.

In the eleventh article Mrs. Iden, Dr. Dittrich, Prof. Nürnberger and Dr. Sader from the Dean’s Office of the Medical Faculty of the Goethe-University Frankfurt, describe Frankfurt’s model of “individual study support” and through a critical analysis of the literature and based on a qualitative analysis of structured interviews outline the situation of student parents in medicine. The authors conclude that in particular student parents must organize study progression precisely and that they require support in doing so in order to maintain a low dropout rate, both in undergraduate studies and postgraduate specialisation.

In the twelfth article Dr. Jerg Bretzke, Equal Opportunity Officer of the University of Ulm and Mrs. Limbrecht from the Equal Opportunity Office will summarise what difficulties doctors who want to have a family and their potential employers must face.

The following five papers describe the current situation at the five leading medical universities in Baden-Württemberg who participated in the study on Family-Friendliness in Medical School. The study results were evaluated for each site and presented and discussed in local workshops. On the basis of the results, the Deans, their staff and a number of equality offices explain ideas and measures, which are relevant to the conditions of each site.

A photographic documentation provides a visual round-up to the conference proceedings.

The conclusion of the conference and these articles can be summarised by saying that the discussion of more family-friendliness and greater compatibility in the health services is becoming more wide-ranging. Especially medical under- and postgraduate education and CPD require very different steps and measures. There is a realisation almost everywhere that more efforts must be made to provide childcare in locations near to the relevant institutions. However, the debate about family-friendliness should not be limited to the expansion of childcare facilities. Prompted by changes to the concept of the family in society but through the increasing proportion of women in medicine, young medical families today regard the quality of family life and a healthy work-life balance as clear priorities. This cannot be increased only by leaving the children in the care of a third party. Young doctors no longer want to live exclusively for their career and instead, fundamental structural changes in the medical profession are needed with regard to better time management in clinical practice. This requirement begins with family-friendly organisation of medical studies and culminates in a reliable handover culture on the ward, outpatient care and in the operating theatre. Part-time models in the medical profession are still a rarity and primarily utilised by women or mothers, especially because currently the organisation of labour in medical professions has not yet created conditions for change. Family-friendliness in university medicine, similar to the current situation in hospitals, must become a task for the management as all contributions show that unless change happens in the foreseeable future, the medical profession will soon suffer serious shortages of junior staff.


We would like to thank the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts of Baden-Württemberg, which has made possible. Special thanks to all authors for their contributions and the Society for Medical Education for their willingness to publish this special issue.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.