BY MICHELLE R. BOND
PHOTO BY BRIAN A. JACKSON, THINKSTOCK.COM
The NIH provides many resources to support parents as they try to integrate and balance their careers and family.
To better understand the needs of its employees, and in an effort to remain an institution that attracts and retains a competitive, skilled, and talented workforce, the NIH has conducted family-related surveys and studies including the 2016 NIH WorkLife Benchmark Study and the 2012 Life@NIH Survey. The study noted that the flexible-work, child-care, adult-care, and fitness and wellbeing programs offered at NIH were regularly comparable to or better than those of peer organizations. But, according to the survey, employees and recruits are often unaware of all the benefits that are available.
Many parenting resources are provided by the Office of Research Services and the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education. Resources include child-care centers, lactation rooms for breastfeeding mothers who need to pump milk at work; a LISTSERV; webinars and seminars; parenting coaches; and resource and referral services. In addition, the Office of Intramural Research offers the “Keep the Thread Program” to postdoctoral fellows so they can modify their work schedules during times of intense family needs. It also extended the tenure clock from six to seven years (from eight to nine years for clinical or epidemiological research) for reasons such as childbirth, adoption, major illness, or family emergency.
Parenting is a challenging and rewarding part of life. Cherishing family moments when juggling work and home can be difficult, but with a wise use of available resources, it can be a little bit easier.
CHILD CARE AND FAMILY RESOURCES
NIH Child Care Subsidy Program (available for NIH federal employees including Title 42 Scientists)
NIH Back-up Care Program (available for NIH federal employees including Title 42 Scientists)
Nursing Mothers Program (access to lactation rooms and lactation consultants)
Resource and Referral Services (Child, Adult/elder, Legal, Financial, and Identity Theft)
OTHER RESOURCES FOR TRAINEES
You Are Not Alone: Resources for Finding an NIH Community, OITE (includes “Mom-Dad-Docs” and “Single Parents Support Group”)
Keep the Thread Program: The intramural Keep the Thread Program offers current NIH Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) and Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) postdoctoral fellows several options for increasing flexibility and temporarily reducing effort while remaining connected to their research and the NIH community during times of intense family needs. The program incorporates a variety of flexible arrangements, to be mutually agreed upon by the fellow and PI, with approval of the scientific director.
Health Insurance: Health insurance is required for all postdoctoral IRTA/CRTA and VF trainees. The NIH will pay for low-option individual or family coverage available through the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES). If trainees wish to subscribe to an FAES policy with more extensive coverage than that provided by the NIH, they will be required to pay the difference in cost.
NIH has several policies pertaining to parental leave. IRTA, CRTA, and Visiting Fellows are allotted eight paid weeks of parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child or to deal with other family health-care needs. Federal employees, who elect to invoke the Family Medical Leave Act, get 12 weeks unpaid leave but can elect to substitute sick leave, annual leave, or donated leave under the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program or Leave Bank (and sometimes even approved advanced leave) to cover the time. See https://policymanual.nih.gov/2300-630-5.
Tenure at the NIH can be achieved in six years (eight years for anyone doing clinical or epidemiological research), or earlier by special exception, and funding is provided for that entire time. In 2008, as part of an effort to make the IRP a more family-friendly place, an additional year was provided, with the option to opt out of the additional year. The clock was extended to seven years (nine for clinical or epidemiological research) to allow a candidate extended family or sick leave, using leave and/or leave without pay for reasons such as childbirth, adoption, major illness, or family emergency.