Burned Out Over Gender by Pat Conrad MD

Yeah I know, we cover this topic once or twice a year, but the gang over at Medical Economics just can’t leave it alone.  In fact the ME editorial board seems increasingly risk averse and clinging to approved scripts.  While the lead editorial assures us that “physicians are fighters, not fleers,” a later spot in the current issue asks, “Why are women leaving medicine?”  The article cites dovetailing studies that show men make up two-thirds of all physicians, even as medical school classes are evenly gender-balanced.

“Health policy experts say that even with more women entering medical school, it is still crucial to address the stresses female physicians face throughout their careers—such as the pay gap, returning to medicine, and burnout—to keep them in the profession.”  To which I respond:  why??  Why exactly do we need a gender balance in medicine?

Kim Templeton, MD, president of the American Medical Women’s Association, says that burnout is more common among female than male physicians.  Templeton says that lack of control over the work environment is a major factor that can contribute to depression, substance abuse, and suicide – just as it does in men.

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Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD, executive director of the Indiana University National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, attributes burnout to not feeling financially respected, citing a recent JAMA claim of a $20,000 gender pay gap among (ahem) academic physicians.

How and why that might be so in the squishy liberal halls of academia is mildly amusing, but questionably relevant.

Rohr-Kirchgraber complains that, “Whether you’re a mom or whether you don’t have kids at all, the majority of the household chores are usually done by the woman and that’s on top of everything else, and so burnout increases because we’re trying to do everything.”  She also whines that female doctors also face productivity challenges:   “When the computer doesn’t work properly, when the electronic medical record doesn’t work properly … I’m the one that’s there answering those phone calls—not those administrative bean counters who are telling me see more, do more.”  You mean like your male colleagues?  Rohr-K, etc. moans about women who leave the profession to raise children having significant hurdles in returning to medicine, reacquiring a license, exam fees running $7,000-$20,000, and having to be monitored for competency by another (probably male, hehe) physician.  Of course, they could have just maintained their medical license, or not had children.  Apparently there is a lot of job dissatisfaction pushing women into other careers – just like men – and 25% of them would retroactively pick a different specialty, compared to 18% of their male counterparts (I’m guessing that means more ladies went into primary care, but the article doesn’t explicitly say that).  And naturally, ME attaches that idiotic JAMA finding that he-doctors kill 32,000 more patients than she-doctors every year.

Templeton and Rohr-K, etc. say ways to fight burnout include “Joining a women’s group, finding a mentor, and reaching out to women colleagues.”  ME offers a blog post for more of the same if you want to buy into treating women in medicine differently than men.  I don’t.

Of course ME might spend more ink in trying to aggressively fight the causes of burnout among ALL physicians, instead of dissipating their energies with namby-pamby political correctness.  And the physicians in question could just make the same tough choices in life that other women and men make, instead of confabulating another threat to some vague notions of fairness while the rest of us have to get back to work.

99120cookie-checkBurned Out Over Gender by Pat Conrad MD