May 29, 2008, - 10:03 am

BusinessWeek Asks: Too Many Women Doctors? Female Docs Work Far Less Hours

By Debbie Schlussel
Because of commitments to family and other predilections, studies show that women doctors work far less hours than men, both here and in Great Britain.
Predictions are that there’s a looming, severe shortage of doctors in the next three years. I blame that on HMOs and other bad price-fixing forces that reduce the attraction for the best and brightest to go into medicine.
Businessweek says that with women dominating the medical field more and more (because of affirmative action and more support for female students than for males, far more women are now in college and medical school than men), this will make healthcare even harder to get, since they work less:


Finding a doctor could soon be even harder than paying for one. Various studies have projected a shortfall. . . .
This looming shortage is forcing into the open a controversy that has been cautiously debated in hospitals and medical practices for some time: Are women doctors part of the problem? It’s not the abilities of female doctors that are in question. It’s that study after study has found women doctors tend to work 20% to 25% fewer hours than their male counterparts.
The British Medical Journal went public with the debate on Apr. 5 when it published a commentary by Dr. Brian McKinstry, a general practitioner at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, titled “Are There Too Many Female Medical Graduates? Yes.” McKinstry argues that “. . . [W]e need to take a balanced approach to recruitment.” . . .
Today women account for one-third of the physician workforce. In U.S. medical schools, they make up half the class. [DS: Actually, it’s well more than half, as repeatedly documented by USA Today.]
But even those who disagree with McKinstry’s position acknowledge that women doctors in the U.S. work less–47 hours per week on average, versus 53 for men. They also see about 10% fewer patients and tend to take more time off early in their careers. “It’s pretty much an even bet that within a year or two of entering practice they will go on maternity leave,” says Phillip Miller, a vice-president of the medical recruiting firm Merritt, Hawkins & Associates. Then they are going to want more flexible hours.”
Such demands tend to irritate older doctors. “The young women in our practice are always looking to get out of being on-call,” says a male internist at a large New York-area medical group who asked not to be named. “The rest of us have to pick up the slack. That really stirs up a lot of resentment.

Another example of this disaster is the absurd story of Dr. Sophie Currier.
All of this is a great-but-sad illustration of the failure of affirmative action. We gave a boost and pushed all the resources to women in a push to get them to go into medicine. And we ignored the men who wanted that career path. Now, as I noted above, women dominate medical school admissions and student bodies.
And since they work far less, we may have a healthcare crisis on our hands very shortly. Gender preferences at work.

12 Responses

It’s the same in pharmacy (I’m a pharmacist by training), except worse. In a typical pharmacy school, you’re talking about a 65/35 female/male ratio. There is a persistant and acute shortage of pharmacists, and the men who typically owned and operated small-town pharmacies in the past are an endangered species.
The solution, of course, as been a mass influx of foreign pharmacists from places like Korea (excellent pharmacists), South Africa (very good pharmacists), the Phillipines (horrible pharmacists), Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Egypt.

sonomaca on May 29, 2008 at 10:35 am

Why do doctors work such long hours anyway? I always hear that doctors work so many hours a week. And as an intern they are expected to work some crazy hours. Why don’t they work 8 hours like everyone else?
Just curious… somehting I’ve never understood.

PrincessKaren on May 29, 2008 at 10:54 am

They have also lowered the standards for females applying to medical school. When I applied to Medical School in 1979 you had to have a 3.8- 4.0 if you were a male and they were taking females as low as 2.75 GPA to get the number of female applicants up.
It is even worse in the specialties like neurology where they are taking females over males with less than stellar academic standards.
Do not even get me started on the foreign medical students that are working at your local HMO.
Affirmative Action is destroying a profession that used to attract the best and the brightest this country had to offer.
IMHO-The white male is under attack in all professions. It is as if they are trying to abolish white men from the work place and the statistics prove it.

ScottyDog on May 29, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Along the lines of what Scotty Dog is saying, I do think there are basic issues of competence involved re men & women doctors. While there are certainly some fine female doctors, there are many published lists of best doctors, nationally and in significant regional areas. Male doctors dominate these lists, and female doctors seem clustered in softer specialties scuh as psychiatry and dermatology.
There are caveats to the methodologies of these studies, as is the case in most studies, but the results are so overwhelming that it suggests like Scotty Dog is saying, maybe some women do get into medical school on an affirmative action, or that family responsibilties cause them to lose their edge, or both.
If I ever have a life-threatening condition, my default position would be to go to a male doctor.

c f on May 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm

There is way too much information missing from this to reach ANY conclusion.
47 v. 53 hrs per week – this is slacking off? BS – The older Dr.s were forced to work incredibly long and stupid hours therefore the next crop must.
There is well documented evidence that the excessive hours that MDs work contribute to poor care/diagnosis.
Next, seeing fewer patients is bad? Translation, spending more time with patients is bad.
The whole discussion is BS.

laneh on May 29, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Although you blame affirmative action instead of American women, this is just another area that will be destroyed in a once great country because of American women. How many other institutions have to go the way-side (I need not mention the state of family) before women realize what they have done.

Robert S. Trojan on May 29, 2008 at 3:44 pm

My husband’s group is in the process of getting rid of a female doc who is too much of a princess. She has refused to try to build her practice as new docs have to, she routinely shows up late for commitments, she throws tantrums in the office, and often has to get help in the operating room when she’s gotten in over her head. If she is out in practice there should never be a time when she is in over her head. I suspect her residency program just passed her through for fear of a sex discrimination suit. She wants to play with the boys, but not as one of them. She wants it handed to her.

Makk on May 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm

You think things are bad now, just wait till a Democrat administration pushes through “free universal health care” — more accurately, “free” “universal” “health” “care.”

DocLiberty on May 29, 2008 at 6:26 pm

The way markets *normally* work is that when you get a new source of supply, prices go down. For example, suppose thousands of women suddenly decided that they wanted to be coal miners, formed their own companies, and opened their own coal mines. The supply of coal would go up and the price would go down *even if* these new coal miners worked shorter hours than the old, mostly-male miners.
If the influx of female doctors is making healthcare harder to get, then the reason must be that the admissions to medical school are being held constant. We need to ask why that is happening and how it can be remedied. on May 29, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Debbie, the good news is that relatively few women go into surgery or other interventional fields. So in an emergency, a man will generally be available to open you up and heal with steel. The immunizations, knee tapping and drug dispensing that women tend to do can usually wait.

Anonymous1 on May 29, 2008 at 11:29 pm

I do think boys are turned off to learning today more then girls. Studies do show more boys are being put on Ritalin, being left back, and boys are one and a half years behind women in reading in middle school while girls are only a half year behind men in math. (The book the war against boys discusses this.) All gov’t money goes to help women in math and science but none to reading and writing. So the problem starts in elementry school. The other serious issue is the number of boys being raised without a father. How can a man be motivated to do anything when he see’s his mother can extort money from his father. Many of these single mothers I’m sure only want their girl to be smart but don’t want their son to be able to do anything. That is one area Debbie would speak more on. Debbie is more concerned about the corrupt divorce laws among Islam but the divorce laws in Christian countries (and in Israel by the way) are very anti-male and allow women to do almost anything to a guy who doesn’t have political connections or very wealthy which is about 80% of the men. Orthodox Rabbi’s are involved in this corruption in divorces and screwing fathers as well. That issue has to be the biggest in terms of boys being discriminated against. THey are most discriminated when they live in a single mother home or even now in a married home where the father is afraid to say anything because he see’s what happens to other guys that have a backbone. I am not married sorry to say and a lot of the women are very difficult today.

adam6275 on May 31, 2008 at 1:31 am

I’m a medicine doc moonlighting in an ER. About 50% of my class were women and many have gone on to be great docs but many do indeed work fewer hours. Recently we had three interns come through our ER–all women. One was great and we’re sorry she’s gone. One rarely showed for shifts and left to do “Female” research. The other was disliked by all the nursing staff and some docs (I liked her) because they said she didn’t pull her weight. When I was applying for med school I met enough students from around the Country to sincerely believe there is a definite female bias in admissions and I met plenty of men with 4.0 GPAs that had to reapply while watching lesser coeds get accepted. I saw that myself. BTW to echo a post above, 70% of our ER is filled with folks who use us for primary care. When we get a flood of serious actual emergent cases on top, we’re saturated (2-3 days a week). Imagine what will happen when there are hundreds of people at triage everyday waving “Universal Care” cards and demanding to be seen because it is their “Right”. We’ll be closed in 2 weeks. Imagine that happening all over the USA. Just my 2 sheckels.

Daybrother on June 1, 2008 at 2:05 pm

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