Athletic Trainer Perceptions of Life-Work Balance and Parenting Concerns

Eberman LE, Kahanov L. J Athl Train. 2013. 48(3):416–423.

Take Home Message: Gender and employment setting in athletic training affect perceptions of life-work balance and parenting.

Retention of seasoned clinicians is a critical component to improved patient care and to ensure mentorship of students and rising colleagues. Athletic training is not immune to attrition, especially at the college/university setting, as striking a finely tuned life-work balance has been the subject of previous studies. The authors felt that additional attention was necessary to understand how parenting concerns factored into the life-work balance. The goal of this study was to assess relationships between gender, parenting status, employment setting, and perceptions of life-work balance in athletic training. The authors randomly selected 9,516 athletic trainers (ATs) from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association membership and 1,962 ATs completed an online survey. Survey questions focused on demographics, life-work balance, family obligations, and parenting/non-parenting items. The gender results revealed that women 1) struggled with increased feelings of guilt related to leaving work for family and vice versa, 2) reported burnout related to balancing work and family, and 3) made fewer changes to their career after children. Women also reported increased feeling of stress related to balancing work and parenting; however, men reported an increased sense of difficulty finding balance as a parent. Respondents of both sexes felt that their respective job settings were not particularly tolerant of their parental obligations. College/university and secondary school ATs reported desiring more time at home with family compared to other settings; college/university ATs reported the strongest feelings of families being neglected due to work. Responses among ATs without children indicated some resentment of colleagues with children, suggesting that perceptions of life-work balance differ between parents and non-parents instead of males and females.

Working as an AT can mean dependency on weather, coaching decisions, and other factors not under the ATs control. When these factors are coupled with the reported perceptions of life-work balance and parenting in this study, it is not challenging to see why attrition of young professionals is an issue. The college/university setting is attractive to many young ATs due to high-profile athletics, salary, etc. However, the irregular hours can be both stressful and a savior when it comes to parenting concerns. College/university ATs reported increased flexibility to attend family obligations, but reported desiring more time at home. Clinic/hospital ATs reported the least flexibility with parenting obligations. These results suggest that employers who support their staff achieving an appropriate life-work balance may benefit through retention of experienced clinicians. Additionally, an improved understanding of life-work perceptions in athletic training can help educators prepare students who are able to mitigate family and work obligations and maintain their passion for their profession. 

Questions for Discussion: How do you handle your life-work balance? Does your employer implement strategies to help you achieve your desired balance?

Written By: Laura McDonald 
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

Eberman, L., & Kahanov, L. (2013). Athletic Trainer Perceptions of Life-Work Balance and Parenting Concerns Journal of Athletic Training, 48 (3), 416-423 DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-48.2.01