Women physicians celebrated, but still lack full support

It's been 167 years since Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D., became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. Today, with the ranks of female physicians inching closer to 50 percent, practices are recognizing the benefits of a gender-diverse workforce, according to an article from The (Kansas) Morning Sun.

"I think we need to rejoice and continue to encourage women to pursue their dreams and desires," Angela Shaw, M.D., chief of staff for Via Christi in Pittsburg, Kansas, and one of the health system's OB/GYN physicians, told the newspaper.

Key benefits of bringing a female perspective to healthcare, according to the doctors, include a more holistic perspective and natural nurturing capability. Thus, the Pittsburg community profiled in the article has seen growth in its female workforce in recent years that mimic national trends. The Via Christi system alone has added three female physicians in the past six months.

Nonetheless, not all female physicians are satisfied that the culture of medicine has truly supported women doctors' unique needs, particularly with regard to motherhood, according to a post from the KevinMD blog.

And female physicians' willingness to accommodate this dynamic, rather than the other way around, has helped perpetuate the inequity, suggested Nisha Mehta, M.D., a radiologist, in the post.

"Somehow, though, in doing these things, we've set up a system where a male attending who rearranges his schedule to make his child's school play is praised, while the pregnant female physician stresses about asking to come in an hour late so they can go to their OB appointment," she wrote.

To help change this dynamic, practices must not only embrace alternative work schedules, according to Mehta, but female physicians must advocate firmly for arrangements that allow them to manage their multiple roles efficiently.

Especially with burnout afflicting droves of male and female physicians alike, practices need to recognize that ignoring physician happiness can backfire in many ways. For example, patient satisfaction scores, which impact revenue, are higher when physicians have the energy to do their jobs well, Mehta noted.

To learn more:
- read the article
- see the post