Female vs. Male Doctors

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A new study out of Harvard may have you thinking about your doctor.
Specifically, his or her gender.

Researchers looked at more than 1,000,000 Medicare patients over several years and found that approximately 32,000 fewer patients would die if the male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians did every year.

“I would say that I am not surprised. As far as my family goes, the women are the nurturers, and the men are the kind of 'tough love.' So if that were the experience someone were having in a hospital, I could see how a patient might do better,” says Shawnice Kraeber, a University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine third-year student.

Researchers don't know the exact reason for the difference in patient outcomes. Some physicians speculate it’s that women listen and communicate better. But there are males in the field who are good listeners too.

“I think it is important to me to understand my weaknesses, and understand why people may not want to come to me, and work on those things. To be more accessible and approachable to patients,” says David Warner, a 4th-year medical student.

While listening and discussing would be considered positive attributes bedside, other physicians note some older patients just want to be told what to do rather than talk about options. Those same patients often confuse female physicians for nurses.

“So I almost feel as though if I walk in to a patient and they ask if I am a nurse, they must trust me or expect me to do something for them,” says Kraeber.

“It's uncomfortable, it's very uncomfortable,” says Warner, when asked to describe what it’s like to be in a room when a female medical student is called a nurse by a patient.

Both students say they would like to see more research done in this area to find out exactly why patients are responding better to women doctors. And perhaps that could lead to best practices for everyone.