CHAPEL HILL - Women physicians in the United States usually work atleast as hard as their male counterparts, but face more on-the-job pressure frompatients, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by researchers at the universities of Wisconsin atMadison and North Carolina at Chapel Hill, involved questioning 6,100 doctors invarious specialties through focus groups and a national survey.
Both sexes reported feeling strong time pressure, but women doctors saidthey were allotted about five minutes less per new patient than men doctorsreported. Lack of enough time for new patients compromised care somewhat, theyfelt, and boosted stress.
Female general internists said that 36 percent of their patients hadsuch time-consuming psychosocial problems as depression, anxiety and eatingdisorders, compared to 27 percent of patients who saw male internists.
"When I worked for a hospital-organized group, I always felt pressuredto see more patients in less time," one woman interviewee said. "Many of myfellow female MDs also told me that they felt caught between the expectations oftheir patients and productivity demands of their parent organization."
"In independent practice now, I feel comfortable with my patient loadbut concerned that eventually outside pressure will force our clinic toaffiliate with a large group, financially support its administration and conformto its productivity guidelines."
Researchers presented findings from the 1997 Physician Worklife StudySaturday (April 25) at the Society of General Internal Medicine's annual meetingin Chicago.
Report authors included Drs. Mark Linzer and Julia McMurray of the UWMedical School and Drs. Thomas R. Konrad and Donald Pathman of UNC-CH's Cecil G.Sheps Center for Health Services Research and School of Medicine.
"Our most important finding is the extent to which not having enoughtime corresponds with physician frustration in their jobs," Konrad said. "Womenphysicians especially are under a lot of pressure because they tend to attractpatients with more complex psychosocial problems who need a sympathetic ear andalso because they often are mothers of young children themselves."
"Increasingly, we are asking physicians to do preventive health care,but these services take time the doctors often don't feel they have."
The study also found:
- Time pressure was the single most important predictor of doctor satisfaction.
- Women reported less control over such workplace issues as office schedules,referring physician contacts and hospitalizing patients.
- Women physicians had 1.5 times the odds of reporting burnout, compared withmale physicians.
- Satisfaction with health maintenance organization (HMO) practice was loweroverall than with many other practice types.
- Women doctors reported feeling less healthy than their male colleagues.
"This study shows that both men and women physicians have pressures, andall of these pressures are significant, but the pressure on women is just more,"Linzer said. "The bottom line is that quality of care may suffer when doctorsdon't have enough time to treat patients. HMOs or physician practices could usethese measures and survey the doctors to see how they're doing. When scoresstart to drop, it's an indicator that something's wrong with the practice, andit should be investigated."
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the research to improvepatient care. Specific goals were to determine made physicians feel committedand satisfied and how to avoid burnout.
Materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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