If Mama Ain’t Happy…
Supporting and Retaining Working Mothers in the Healthcare Setting
working mother

The day before I was expecting an employee to return from maternity leave, I received her resignation letter, citing reasons of wanting to focus on motherhood. The timing was unfortunate, but I was happy for her. As a mother, this made me wonder if I was making good life choices. As a manager, this made me feel like I’m competing with little babies for mom’s time and talents. How can we retain good employees when they’re in love with the competition? The truth is, we can’t. The kids always win, and they should.  We can only hope to join mom in loving these little, squishy sugarplums by giving her the support she needs to excel at home and then in the workplace.

Raise Benefits Awareness

They say, “a baby changes everything,” and this extends to the need for benefits and the enrollment period.  Benefits could be anything from financial planning, expanding insurance coverage and assigning beneficiaries, or simply knowing they have employee assistance for stress management. Having insurance coverage for breast pumps, lactation consultants and pelvic floor physical therapy is tangible proof of the company’s support for mothers of newborns. On-site childcare is an attractive benefit, too! Encourage expecting moms (and dads) to consult human resources and benefits management about what opportunities are available through your institution.

Support the Breastfeeding Journey

Time spent breastfeeding a child can equal as much time spent working a full-time job. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months. Compare that to maternity leave, which can be as short at 6 weeks. That means new moms are working two jobs! Before she delivers, make her aware of lactation services which can include an on-site lactation consultant, time and space to express milk, and storage space for breastmilk. The AAP is an excellent resource for this, and they issued a news release in 2022 citing recommendations for corporate support of  breastfeeding:  American Academy of Pediatrics Calls for More Support for Breastfeeding Mothers Within Updated Policy Recommendations (aap.org)

Creative Scheduling & Cross-Training

Drug shortage mitigation proved to be a mere training ground when compared to navigating the workforce shortage, making employee retention seem more important than ever before.  Overall, what moms need from their employer is to be able to leave work to care for their child without judgement from management and coworkers. The workflow should be designed so mom can meet the needs of her sick child, or attend a school function, without added guilt of her workflow left unattended. Creativity is key when it comes to meeting the needs in the department while balancing employees’ needs outside the department. This may mean schedule changes, creating PRN staffing requirements, or expanding benefits to part-time employees. Cross-training employees ensures the needs of the department are met when special occasions arise during this precious season of life.

Moms have a reputation for being pretty remarkable creatures. Research has shown that mothers’ brains are equipped to be “more efficient, flexible, and responsive” as a result of changes occurring in the perinatal period.1,2 That makes sense when we think of our cavewomen ancestors protecting their young, but these traits make valuable employees in today’s era, too. She may not be shooing away a sabertoothed tiger, but it can feel that way as she juggles the demands of work and home life. Working with employees as they venture through seasons of life, especially young motherhood, lets them know they are supported and valued at work, and creates a space for them to build a career.

These opinions are those of the author and not of Pharmacy Angle or USA Health.


1 Kinsley, Craig Howard, and Kelly G. Lambert. “The Maternal Brain.” Scientific American, vol. 294, no. 1, 2006, pp. 72–79. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/26061302.

2 Orchard, E.R., Voigt, K., Chopra, S. et al. The maternal brain is more flexible and responsive at rest: effective connectivity of the parental caregiving network in postpartum mothers. Sci Rep 13, 4719 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-31696-4.