Misogyny in Healthcare

By Nupur Kudapkar 

Misogyny is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. Since most societies place a larger importance on males and masculinity, gender prejudice disproportionately impacts women and girls. Gender prejudice can also harm persons who are perceived as feminine, such as trans and nonbinary individuals. Furthermore, this prejudice might have an influence on boys and men who are under pressure to adhere to traditional gender stereotypes. Gender bias pervades the healthcare system, from female patients and doctors to the medical research and legislation that control it. Female doctors are frequently referred to as nurses. Nurses are absolutely amazing and doctors could not live without them; they provide so much to the healthcare system. However, some female doctors find this expression aggravating, it is unsurprising for female physicians who are frequently misidentified as nurses or other health care workers to hear these phrases. Other insulting, gender-stereotyping statements from patients include calling female doctors “honey” or “sweetie,” dismissing young female physicians as unskilled, asking intrusive personal inquiries, and implicitly assuming males are physicians. This disregards the fact that women physicians are also doctors, as they go through the same training as male physicians. Their names are not “honey” or “sweetie” but Doctor—the title they earned after at least a decade of hard work. The continuation of sexism in the face of increased female representation suggests that their professionalism is insufficient.

In addition, workplace bullying and harassment absolutely cannot have a place in medicine. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, at the same time as taking the 2018 American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination, which is taken by all surgical residents across the country, the researchers surveyed surgical residents about their working conditions, including whether they had experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, verbal or physical abuse, or other mistreatment. Respondents were also questioned about their working hours, if they felt burned out by their professions, and whether they had ever considered suicide. Roughly 7,400 doctors responded to the researchers’ study, with about 40% of them being female. Burnout was reported by 42 percent of female surgical trainees and 36 percent of male surgical residents. According to the study, female physicians were also more prone to have suicidal thoughts. Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that greater on-the-job abuse accounted for nearly all of the reasons why more female doctors felt burned out and had suicidal thoughts. Mistreatment was a concern for both genders, with almost half of respondents reporting some type of improper conduct throughout their training, although women reported significantly more of it. Among other findings, 65 percent of all female respondents experienced gender discrimination, compared to 10% of all male respondents; 13 percent of women reported pregnancy or parental status discrimination, compared to 3% of men; and 20% of women reported sexual harassment, compared to 4% of males. According to the study, doctors’ on-the-job troubles might be attributed to a variety of factors. According to both male and female respondents, attending doctors were the most frequent verbal abusers, with peers—other residents—following closely after. Meanwhile, at least when it came to female doctors, patients and their families were primary offenders of sexual harassment. Nurses and other staff employees were more frequently to blame for men. While the survey exposes a shockingly frequent problem among doctors, the authors point out that eliminating workplace harassment and maltreatment is a practical answer to the burnout epidemic, which costs the healthcare system billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and attrition. Furthermore, the authors discovered a considerable range in rates of mistreatment from program to program—which, if nothing else, implies that some institutions are already getting it right (TIME).