6 years ago on November 16, 2015
The first time I took my niece to her doctor made me uneasy. Besides my niece being sick, I was uncomfortable with the fact that she is treated by a male doctor rather than a woman. So as we waited on our queue, the slightly opened door allowed me to peek and see a burly bearded man with a bald head inside the doctor’s office and I couldn’t contain my disgust. My niece gave a shove and told me I was being mean. Maybe it’s just my paternal instincts taking over knowing how men are when it comes to women. But then, I felt some semblance of ease when I looked around the line of patients with us and most of them were women of all ages.
So it got me thinking: Does gender really influence how patients trust a doctor? Do women prefer male doctors and male patients prefer female doctors? Then, thinking outside the box and putting myself in a patient’s shoes, if gender influences my choice of doctor, it might say more about me than it does about my doctor.
Gender plays an essential part in the patient-doctor relationship. While female patients say female doctors express great concern and empathy and are extremely reassuring, male patients, on the other hand, confirm that male doctors are more precise, detailed, influential and more persuasive. Yet study shows that while male physicians may be more productive, their female peers provide better care for their patients.
In the 2008 study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, female doctors saw about 160 fewer patients a year, as compared with their male counterparts. This shows that female doctors spends 10% more time with their patient, and patients may be more likely to have a back-and-forth discourse as much as with male doctors do.
Study also proves that patients are more comfortable asking questions and would respond differently to women in white coats than to men. They feel more comfortable of telling how they really feel and can inquire more issues than to men. They tend to listen more and ask more. Their male counterparts seem to be more stiff, stern, and direct to the point.
So do I prefer female doctors because they’re easier to talk to? Not necessarily.
My sister-in-law’s obstetrician-gynecologists is male. Perhaps this is most fascinating and ironic in the patient-doctor relationship — one that involves male doctors who practice obstetrics and gynecology. And three of my nephews came out of this world with the help of a male Ob-Gyn. Where if my sister-in-law would make another appointment should she be pregnant again, she would still come back to her old reliable doctor. Yes, she trust this male doctor very much because this physician has shown to be significantly better than his female colleagues at showing empathy and talking to patients about their emotional concerns. That is according to what she, my sister-in-law, had experienced.
But, as this ob-gyn example reveals, and contrary to my sister-in-law’s belief, the ability to have more patient-centered discussions is not limited to one sex. Or to those who might be mothers. Because most mothers and mothers-to-be still rely on the instinct and care of those who experienced motherhood. So others still choose female ob-gyns.
Yet, as to what my niece told me, her doctor is a heart specialist who practices in the most popular heart hospital in the city and is one of the most sought-after cardiologist. That is she telling me to stop giving other people – specially a doctor, a cold shoulder. She trust her male doctor as much as my sister-in-law trust her ob-gyn.
Thinking about these draw me to the conclusion that my niece’s doctor and my sister-in-law’s ob-gyn practices a combination of both and other patients may not know how these male doctors work. Better counselling and a more responsive attitude towards questions and patient involvement aren’t unique with women. Not only plenty of male doctors do these things, but medical schools are beginning to offer courses in attentive patient care.
So, to answer the question – yes gender plays a role in a patient’s preference. But that is not a basis of judgment on what a good doctor is. Gender doesn’t determine a doctor’s ability. If you’re looking for a doctor and you want your health to be in proper shape, it is a matter of determining the performance, practice, skill, and your comfort and familiarity to them, regardless of the physician’s gender.
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