Tuesday, 16 June 2009

where are all the women doctors?

is it just me, or is it really difficult to have access to a woman doctor? i've found it really quite difficult in the last 10 years or so. i'd rather see a woman doctor for personal matters, and even for things like listening to my breathing when i have a cold or taking my blood pressure.

the problem is that there aren't many women doctors available. those who are available often dont' work in the later afternoons, presumably because they have children who they would like to be with after school. or they work only two (maybe three) days a week, and it's inevitable that i will fall sick on the days they aren't working.

which makes it difficult for a working mum, who finds that having to keep taking time off work for my own and the children's appointments really difficult. or when it's urgent but there are no women doctors available. i've shifted clinics to try to sort out the problem, but my new clinic is just as bad as the old one. and there aren't any women doctors in single private practice in hamilton.

it's something i have a real dilemma with. because i'm working, i want healthcare to be provided at times that are convenient for me. but these doctors are also working mums and want the same. i don't know a way around it, other than to stay sick and wait another day or two for an appointment, or to succumb and see a male doctor, which feels yukky.

so why are we having this shortage of women doctors? is it because there are not enough women entering the profession? or some other reason?


Amy V. said...

We are spoilt for choice at Student Health at Vic Uni! They have many fantastic female doctors - I think I've seen at least ten different ones over the years, compared with only two male doctors.

Anna said...

I heard a theory once that women doctors get relied on heavily for women's health issues, and spend a lot of time doing cervical smears, giving contraceptive advice, etc. So they will seek out opportunities for work with a bit more breadth. I have absolutely no idea whether there's any truth in this or not!

A Nonny Moose said...

My M-I-L who's a practitioner (yay her! Boo she's retiring soon) says that younger generations want great jobs right out of medical school - she's finding it difficult to mentor younger doctors/nurses (of both sexes) because they're not willing to do the harder slog (eg: work in rural areas, work in clinics) - pay their dues you might say. This is why there's such a tide of doctors heading overseas, because they're getting paid infinitely better, meaning they can knock back their debt sooner. This attitude is reinforced by the low respect for younger recruits.

I'm lucky to have found a great lady doctor, but like many I have come across, she's an import. She loves living here, has kids (and boy did I miss her when she was on maternity leave), so I have to plan appts around her days on.

My mum is one of the rare ones to have an awesome lady doctor who is 2nd generation (running her father's old practise). They're out there, but maybe it has to do with location - they're choosing lifestyle perhaps (understandable, bringing up kids, access to facilities etc)

Lucy said...

Clearly they're all in student health - we have heaps at Student Health at Canty too. In fact, I don't think I've ever been to see a male doctor there.

suraya said...

Someone once told me that male gynaecologist/obstetricians outnumbered females four to one, and that this is one of the specialism in which women are most underrepresented. I think this is shocking, partly as a result of first hand experience of the assumptions male doctors can make about how lady parts ought to be treated (eg, "It's better to be rough and quick than take time with a procedure, because women prefer it to hurt and be over quicker than for it to take longer and not hurt"), presumably on the basis of not having any themselves. Imagine how much better women's experience of all that stuff could be if there were more women doing it. Which is not to say that men can't do it well, but so few women in the area can't possibly help.

katy said...

A Nonny Moose - I believe that Otago is developing their rural medicine programme, to ensure students are exposed to working in that context.

I have a female doctor and she is excellent, and there are several otehrs in the practice. But I have had a few recent BAD experiences with specialists (male and female) which I may share at some point in the future.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a large number are either pregnant, on paid parental leave, or work between 9-3.

Ever thought of getting a male doctor?

Cactus Kate said...

The best solution is a male doctor accompanied by a female nurse in the room at all times.

You've answered your own question as to where the female G.P's are....getting this "work-life" balance!!

stargazer said...

anon, have you even read the post? i addressed that in the first paragraph. please get rid of the snark if you'd like to continue commenting on this post.

stargazer said...

yeah, kate, i know i answered where they are and that i'm sympathetic to their work-life balance. but was thinking that we need some way around this, like maybe encouraging more women into general practice and making sure that the universities have a decent gender balance in the students they approve.

re the nurse in the room, still won't make me feel in any way comfortable with a male doctor looking at my ladybits.

Anonymous said...

Don't know the exact figures, but would guess that 50% of the graduates from med school are female. I hate to say it, but a sizable proportion of women drop out of medicine when they have children. For an interesting discussion on this phenomena of highly educated women throwing it all away to bring up children read: Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World by Linda Hirshman. Basically lays a large part of the blame on fathers, not actually doing an equal amount of childcare and everything else involved in running a home. One in a thousand men might take an equal responsibility or even more for the house and children, but the exception does not prove the rule.

I'm an highly educated women with two small children and a successful well-paid demanding career, yes it is hard doing everything, plus community work. What annoys me is that people constantly ask "when do you see your children". But I do, I run the house as well as doing 90% of looking after the children outside of creche school, including cooking meals for the evenings when I don't pick the children up. Do men ever get asked when they see their children?

Many women have an education and opportunities that their grandmothers and even mothers could only dream of, and there is going to be a time when people will quite correctly (I think) ask why the tax payer dollars are being spent on women who are going to throw it all away and stay at home with their children.

Indeed, I am half way through reading Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique, while some things have changed in the past 40 years, other things have not.

Finally, what has struck me increasingly and this is outlined in the book Get to Work, is that there are more women involved in community work, Plunket etc who have children and work full time, the stay at home Mum's don't do much work. Yes, there will be an outcry over this, but there are always exceptions to the rule. All I can say is that Plunket is crying out for volunteers, yet in Auckland at least sub branches are failing because there just aren't enough volunteers, and this at a time when there are more and more stay at home mums.

Maia said...

Oh God no not Linda Herschman. With her decision to start victim-blaming in rape cases she has made it clear that she has nothing to contribute to feminist analysis.

My sister is training to be a doctor, and I'm fairly sure more than half her class are women.

I've never had a problem finding a woman doctor, either in student health or clinics for the low-income. I think it's interesting, but not suprrising, that female doctors are more common in these particular areas.

But the underlying problem here is that men do far less unpaid work, and take far less responsibility for children and childcare.

And the solution to that problem is one of the great unsolved mysteries of feminism.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Maia, about Men doing far less work looking after children, so that the bulk lies with the mother. But Any comment on women throwing it all in to look after children?
Or is this just too touchy a subject for some "feminists"?

Deborah said...

"Throwing it all in to look after the children?"

My own experience was that we simply couldn't manage two full-on jobs between us. I stepped back, for various reasons. So I am an at-home mother, with a string of degrees, doing just a bit of paid work. From the outside, it might look like I threw it all in. From the inside, it was the least bad choice we could make as a family.

Back on topic: I'm okay with seeing a male doctor, and my partner is okay with seeing a female doctor. We prefer to both see the same doctor, working on the idea of having a family doctor. Our current doctor is male; the previous one was female. But just because I'm fine with a male doctor doesn't mean that other women have to be.

Capcha: exama

Anita said...

I wonder if women GPs congregate in particular practices?

The practice go to (which is pretty large) has more female then male GPs. My GP is female, my 2nd and 3rd choices (I'm complicated) are also female, on days when it's been "first available appointment, it doesn't matter who I see" I've got women about 50% of the time I reckon. The practice has two certifying consultants, and (at least used to have) one of the very small number of GPs doing sexual assault work in Wellington. It's in a poor part town, is full of recent refugees and migrants and people who struggle to pay, and a relatively large number of prostitutes as clients (according to my GP). The have GPs with specialist areas like maternity care, menopause and fertility.

I bus the whole way across town because I like the practice, the GPs, the nurses, the reception staff.

Perhaps, as I said, strong feminist GPs congregate together to create strong women-friendly practices? If you can find those practices you're onto a winner, but everyone else is left a little short of women GPs.

Anonymous said...

Yes Deborah, it is difficult to have 2 parents worling two full time jobs, but why is it that 97% of the time it is the woman and not the man that is the one to scarifice their career? No I can't substantiate the 97% figure but wouldn't be suprised if it was even higher?

Maia said...

Anonymous - sexism and misogyny is the reason.

Questioning individual decisions is not going to change that.

Hugh said...

Part of the problem may be that men are seeing female doctors in significant numbers, and thus reducing the ammount of time female doctors have for female patients.

katy said...

Hugh, I would have thought that men would like to see male doctors?? Are you saying that female doctors are actually in demand by male patients?

Hugh said...

Katy, I really have no idea whether or not men prefer male GPs as a whole. Personally I don't care either way, although my current GP is a woman. But it would be hard to argue men gain in any way from having access to female doctors, the way women do.

Anonymous said...

Heaps at Auckland Uni Student Health too... I used to go to Mt Eden Medical Centre - awesome place, heaps o laydeez.

And I agree that if you do have a male, that having a female nurse in the room does not necessarily make it better - she kind of metaphors for the Elephant.

That is not to denigrate male doctors, I've had some lovely ones over the years, but if I am going to a new place or having inspections done on the lady-garden, I prefer to have a woman too.

Brenda said...

i have no preference for male or female doctors - i've just taken whoever is available when changing clinics after moving house -- my last 5 GPs have been female. just works out that way.

but I don't know if the person on the phones i assigning me a female doctor without asking.

lovestitches said...

I have a female doctor and always prefer to have a female now. 3 out of the 4 doctors at my medical centre are women so I am lucky but they all have kids and can be hard to get on the day/time you want. But the male doctor is a bit creepy and likes to ask about your sex life a bit too much so I try avoid him.