The New Yorker cover from last week has sparked a lot of discussion about what a surgeon looks like. In this article, guest blogger Jack Turban discusses the research and his thoughts behind gender and racial bias in medicine.
Our country’s political climate has changed dramatically this year. As healthcare providers, we’re powerful leaders in our communities and across the country. When faced with times of injustice, activism becomes a responsibility. It becomes vital for us to not only advocate for our patients and future patients, but also raise awareness for policies that affect our healthcare system and providers.
Burnout syndrome is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. I burned out early. Right out of fellowship, I no longer wanted to be a doctor. The grueling hours, my grumpy co-workers, and distant patient engagements left me totally exhausted. However over the course of a year, I was able to rediscover my passion for medicine.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, nearly 80% of workers in the health care and social assistance field are women. They outnumber men four to one in the industry, yet they still make up a vast minority of healthcare leaders.
The need and push for more women in roles of leadership is a prominent issue that applies to all areas of the workforce, but studies have shown it is especially important in the realm of healthcare and medicine.
A 2015 study from the Center For Talent Innovation titled The Power of the Purse: Engaging Women Decision Makers for Healthy Outcomes found that 94 percent of women in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, and Brazil make healthcare decisions for themselves and 59 percent make health decisions for others, including which medicines to take, health regimens to follow, and doctors to see, as well as general healthy lifestyle choices.
Girl scouts are everywhere ferociously selling cookies and it reminds me of my childhood. Back then you could purchase a box for $2.50, and I would always hustle to sell the customer an extra box get an even $5 sale. I learned a lot about leadership in girl scouts, but honestly I’ve learned more through out my medical training by simply noticing how I’m treated differently.
Men are labeled ambitious. Women are labeled aggressive.
Men are labeled leaders. Women are labeled bossy.
Men get powerful labels, and we get negative ones.
I burned out early. I was done being a doctor at the end of fellowship. Although I took a job as a critical care physician, I desperately sought to alter my career somehow. I looked into website development, something I had been good at in high school. I took a few refresher classes on my days off and started coding my own sites. Luckily, my first job out of fellowship accepted many of my schedule demands, such as day shifts only, and after about a year I recovered and remembered why I had loved medicine to begin with.
Critical care physicians have the highest burnout rate with 55% experiencing burnout and 1 in 3 experiencing severe burnout. The Maslach burnout inventory defines three stages: emotional exhaustion, emotional detachment, and diminished personal accomplishments.
Last year, the Critical Care Societies Collaborative (CCSC) identified the factors contributing to burnout were personal characteristics, organizational factors, quality of working relationships, and end-of-life related factors. However, the most noteworthy independent risk factor was female gender.
For what is done or learned by one class of women becomes, by virtue of their common womanhood, the property of all women.
A New York Times article titled “You’re Cute and Fired” highlighted the intimidation some men feel for attractive female coworkers. The article discussed several lawsuits of high level men firing attractive assistants because they felt her looks got int the way of work productivity.
This even spills into the realm of mentorship. Some men won’t mentor a female protégée for fear of workplace gossip. A friend of mine had a vicious rumor spread about her when she got admission into a competitive surgical residency. Some said she had slept with one of the attendings when she was medical student, because there was NO WAY a beautiful young woman was smart enough or skilled enough to get into this program. When she started the program, senior residents would taunt her and said that they couldn’t wait for her to work with another attending, Dr. Wong. He was notoriously mean, tough, and didn’t pay special attention to any attractive females. The joke was on them. Dr. Wong loved this resident because she WAS smart, and he was professional enough to not be distracted by her good looks.
I’ve had to deal with a lot of workplace annoyances simply because I’m female. After talking to many women at work, I’ve realized that we all have the same issues. The history of the healthcare industry’s growth is unique in it’s gender dynamics. Traditionally the doctor was male, and gave orders the the female nurse. Now, medical school admission rates have reached an equal 50/50, but the boys club still exists in many specialties. I’m here to tell you that it’s not going to be just the boys anymore, and I’m here to empower you.
Lets do this!