Knowledge and skills of the physician, her or his counselling skills and patient’s trust in a physician are the key parameters that play an important role in overall patient satisfaction.
Does physician gender make any difference to patient satisfaction?
In a study conducted at Harbour UCLA Medical Center it was found that gender preferences were stronger among female patients and having a female physician was associated with greater satisfaction in them. This has been widely proven in the field of gynecology where most doctors are females and a high patient satisfaction has been reported world over.
Female doctors tend to spend more time with patients and have lengthier patient visits than their male counterparts. They are also more concerned, good listeners, empathetic and tend to generate more trust and confidence in their patients. The study also observed a change in the attitude of male patients. They are seen to be increasingly more comfortable with the demeanor of female doctors and tend to have greater satisfaction in terms of quality and standard of care.
Unlike gynecology and a few other branches like internal medicine and anesthesia, the gender ratio in “Surgery” is largely skewed towards male doctors. Although surgical diseases are found in equal numbers in men and women, the field of surgery is largely male dominated. Women doctors are less likely to take up surgery as a specialization and less than 15% of all surgeons happen to be women. Long working hours, constant challenge to maintain a healthy work life balance and probably a lack of role models are factors that deter women from taking up surgery.
There is an urgent need to address this disparity and more women doctors must be encouraged to specialize in “surgery” especially in Asia and the Middle East. Cultural and religious beliefs in countries like Iran, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the entire Arab belt make gender preferences much stronger among women patients in these countries. Very often, lack of female surgeons, prevents the female patients from seeking timely medical advice resulting in increased morbidity and mortality. Same is true for India and other South East Asian countries.
In view of this tendency of female patients to derive greater satisfaction in being cared for by female doctors, more women must be encouraged to take up male dominated specialties like “Surgery”.
It is high time that stereotypes are broken and this gender disparity is bridged. I wish that more and more female doctors opt for “surgery” as their specialty and bring in that extra touch of grace, empathy and sensitivity to this field of medicine.