Article Review: Female vs. Male Physicians

One of my friends posted this article from NPR on Facebook the other day and I found it to be very interesting. It’s titled “Patients Cared for by Female Doctors Fare Better than Those Treated by Men”. The article discusses a study conducted by Harvard researchers on the differences between female physician care vs. male physician care. The article is slightly controversial because it discusses the study’s findings which come to the conclusion that:

Harvard researchers have found that female doctors who care for elderly hospitalized patients get better results. Patients cared for by women were less likely to die or return to the hospital after discharge.

Previous research has shown that female doctors are more likely to follow recommendations about prevention counseling and to order preventive tests like Pap smears and mammograms.

But the latest work, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, is the first to show a big difference in the result that matters most to patients: life or death.

The study’s authors estimate “that approximately 32,000 fewer patients would die if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians every year.”

Of course, these are the findings of one study out of many. The researchers are unsure as to why females tend to have better patient care vs. males, but they had their ideas that seemed valid. DISCLAIMER: I speak on a general assumption here; not categorizing all women into these categories. Most women naturally have a more empathetic outlook and are more nurturing in nature, and this often reflects in patient care. Many women are also generally more thorough and are more willing to take time to go through everything necessary to ensure their patients’ health is in top shape. Most women also know the importance of the preventative examinations since they usually take those precautions themselves.

MY OPINION: I have personally seen both ends of the spectrum. I know male physicians who are every empathetic and communicate very well with their patients. I know women physicians who do not have the nurturing characteristic that a physician should present – whether they be male or female. On the other side, I have seen what this study suggests – male physicians who are not empathetic and female physicians who are nurturing. I believe the difference in this is due to how you relate to patients and how comfortable you are investing yourself in the patient. If you are a naturally open and social person, I would think it would be easier for you to interact with a patient.

I was reading a little more into different opinions on this topic and why others thought that female physicians had better patient outcomes. One point that stood out to me was that female physicians were more likely to discuss options and results with their patients, vs. male physicians generally giving an order and having no discussion about it. I also read that patients (and society in general) are more likely to think of medicine being a “male-dominated” field; assuming that the male physician knows more and should be trusted over the female physician, which accounts for “no further discussion” when a male physician gives an order or diagnosis. In today’s society this mentality is obviously changing rapidly, as more and more women are joining the field of medicine. I believe that all physicians, no matter the gender, should work and strive to be empathetic towards all patients, so these types of divides can be eliminated. As I’ve stated many times before in previous posts: as physicians we all have a common goal: to treat the patient and give them the best possible care we can. 

What do you think about this subject? I’d love to hear your opinions and read other articles you’ve read on the subject. Send me a message using this form or leave a comment below!


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