The Positive Effects of Feminizing Medicine: Visible changes that modify the profession

Friday 02 November 2007

Montréal, november 2, 2007 – The feminization of medicine has had numerous positive impacts on the entire medical profession. In particular, women have had an effect on doctor-patient relationships, the organization of services, access to and the quality of services, and finally, on the medical profession itself.

These are the findings of a study conducted by the Groupe de recherché interdisciplinaire en santé (interdisciplinary health research group) at Université de Montréal, commissioned by the Québec Medical Association (QMA), that was released today.

This research on the impact of feminization of the medical profession, practice methods and the choice of specialists debunks some of the myths surrounding the presence of female physicians in the profession. "The study added qualitative aspects to the considerable quantitative data that already exists on this issue. We already knew that the massive arrival of women in the medical profession had resulted in a drop in the services offered. However, this study has confirmed that feminization has also had significant positive impacts on many aspects of medicine. Moreover, the drop in level of activity is not due to feminization alone, but must be viewed as a generational phenomenon. For younger members of the workforce, it is more important to find a balance between their work and personal lives," explained Dr. Jean-Bernard Trudeau, President of the QMA.

Difference in the number of hours worked and impact on the quality of care offered

The study revealed that women work about 10% fewer hours than men. In particular, female general practitioners saw about 15% fewer patients per hour in their practice than their male colleagues, which means that they spend a little more time with each patient.

A few other highlights of the study:
  • In general, women communicate better and establish better relationships with their patients than men, which translates into greater patient satisfaction and an increase in the effectiveness of preventive and curative services.
  • Women in general have better leadership skills when it comes to the organization and operation of multi-disciplinary teams. Feminization could therefore make it easier to set up integrated care networks and participate in reorganization of the health care system. Women could thus contribute to improving access to and the quality of services. Furthermore, they have a more holistic prevention-oriented approach.
  • The differences between male and female physicians can also be seen in their practice methods, especially among general practitioners. Men, especially young physicians, can be found more in emergency rooms and practices, while women are more frequent in CLSCs and hospital units. Women also engage in more prevention activities and are more involved with disadvantaged groups of the population.
  • Québec is considered a leader in the feminization of the medical profession in Canada. In fact, women began practising earlier in Québec and were a little more involved than in the other provinces and territories. Feminization started with general practitioners before spreading to almost all the specialties. For several years now, almost two thirds of medical students have been women.
  • In 2004 and 2005, 75 % of residents in family medicine and 58 % in programs in specialties were women.
  • Some specialties attract more women: pediatrics (84%), obstetrics/gynecology (87%), dermatology (78%), neurology (75%) and psychiatry (73%).

"The primary goal of the study was to help us better understand the impact of feminization on the medical profession. But beyond that, the study will also assist many of our partners in the health care system since it is a workforce planning tool that complements those that already exist," pointed out Dr. Jean-Bernard Trudeau, President of the QMA.

For the past few years, the QMA has been very active in all issues related to the organization of medicine and new practice methods. The study released today is a new element that will contribute to the dialogue on these crucial issues for improving our health care system and the quality of care.

Féminisation de la profession médicale et transformation de la pratique au Québec.

About the Québec Medical Association

The Québec Medical Association (QMA) is a non-unionized organization made up of more than 9,000 general practitioners, specialists, residents and medical students. Its mission is to mobilize and support Québec physicians in order to guarantee quality health services for the Québec population.

For further information:

Véronique Arsenault, Morin
Relations Publiques,
(514) 289-8688, ext. 227

Source: Québec Médical Association (QMA)