Skip to content

ABIM to Convene Women in Medicine to Identify How to Enhance Their Exam Experience

November 7, 2019  |  Posted by ABIM  |  Assessments for MOC, News, Physician Feedback

You may have seen the Twitter thread recounting the story of a physician who had a poor experience at a Pearson VUE test center. As a nursing mother, she asked if she could have a private space to pump her breast milk and unfortunately, Pearson was unable to provide her a private space. This was deeply disappointing to us at ABIM, especially to the working mothers here who know the struggles of trying to advance your career while raising a young family.

Since 2015, ABIM has been able to assist more than 500 women physicians seeking accommodations as nursing mothers. It’s important to us that nursing mothers be provided with clean, private spaces while taking our exams. Societally, there is a deficit in caring for intersectional issues, including the unique challenges faced by women, the differently abled and other groups in various phases of life when they reach traditional career milestones. This creates undue burdens and inequity in all industries.

ABIM’s current policy for nursing mothers is that someone who will be lactating at the time of their exam should submit an application for an accommodation.  We ask for this type of formal request so we can make sure Pearson has private space available. Unfortunately, we know from experience that some centers simply lack the physical space necessary. In that instance, our staff acts as an intermediary between the nursing mother and Pearson VUE to locate another nearby center that can make those accommodations or find a different solution. Another reason we ask physicians to request an accommodation is so that we can provide extra break time if needed.  In order to provide that, ABIM must send a different format of the exam to Pearson VUE well in advance of the testing date. 

We are determined to do better.

While our program has evolved to include more options for physicians and flexibility in how they take an ABIM assessment—including taking it at home—there’s still work to be done.

We’ve sought the advice of advocates for women’s health and gender equity, including the National Partnership for Women & Families. Our team is working on these changes:

  • We are making the accommodation request more apparent during the exam registration process so physicians are aware that they need to make the request in advance. We realized through this story that there may be a lack of awareness of the availability of an accommodation or the need to request one in the first place. We are making that more apparent in the Physician Portal on You can see a preliminary mock-up of the change here. 
  • We will advocate for Pearson VUE to make it a franchise requirement to provide space for nursing mothers. With Pearson VUE being a franchise business model, experiences in test centers across the country may vary.  We plan to hold conversations at the corporate level and use our unique position as one of Pearson’s largest customers to advocate for women test takers. We’ll update the community on the progress of these conversations moving forward.
  • We are setting up time to hear directly from women in medicine. We want to convene a group of nursing mothers and any other woman physician interested in joining us for a webinar this fall to discuss best practices.
    • We’ll answer any questions you may have about the current policy, but we want to know:
      • What are the challenges you’ve faced?
      • What could’ve made those experiences better?
      • What can ABIM, Pearson VUE and other boards do to reduce incidents like the one described at the beginning of this blog?

If you’re interested in participating in this webinar, please fill out this form and we’ll get back to you with scheduling details.

Thank you to Dr. Kendra Moore who advocated for her colleague by telling her story and tagging us on Twitter so that we were informed of the situation, and thank you to those who responded to express similar concerns across many facets of your career. It’s heartbreaking to hear that so many issues still persist, but it’s heartening to see the community come together to change that.

Together, we can move health care forward.