Closing the gender gap


“If patients don’t trust the care they are given, it can impact outcomes,” she added. “There is a lot to being a hospitalist that is diagnostic, such as finding the correct diagnosis and implementing the appropriate treatment. However, beyond that, a huge part of this role is to be a knowledgeable caregiver, someone who guides a patient through the experience of being ill in a complex medical system. This requires immense trust.”

Dr. Faye Reiff-Pasarew of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York

Dr. Faye Reiff-Pasarew

As a physician trained in medical humanities, Dr. Reiff-Pasarew has found ways around this by listening to her patients and giving them the opportunity to share their stories when appropriate. This allows her to empathize with them and better guide their care. But, she acknowledges, she and most physicians often do not have time for this, particularly in the hospital setting. Still, Dr. Reiff-Pasarew and some colleagues will offer a career development workshop at HM18 on the approach, called “Challenging Patients, Challenging Stories: A Medical Humanities Approach to Provider Burnout.”

Dr. Reiff-Pasarew also believes better mentoring and feedback opportunities would benefit female physicians and trainees. “I often see that equally knowledgeable female trainees and medical students are much more self-deprecating when presenting research,” she said. “They give disclaimers that they don’t know enough, while their male peers are more confident.”

She is quick, however, not to blame women, largely because the same social pressures that Dr. Arora and Dr. Farnan acknowledged may have molded their behaviors. “I meet with residents to talk explicitly about situations where they are treated inappropriately by patients or other staff,” Dr. Reiff-Pasarew said. “We discuss how they might react in those situations in the future and how they can process these challenges.”

Modern American culture equips men and women with “different essential skill sets,” Dr. Reiff-Pasarew noted, but she suggested men and women can learn from one another. “We should be teaching men to be more empathetic listeners, a skill that is generally taught to girls. Similarly, we need to teach women confidence, a skill predominantly taught to boys.”

Just as important, male clinicians should believe in and trust the experiences that women report having, Dr. Reiff-Pasarew said. “It’s very difficult to understand the subtleties of how people are treated differently in patient interactions if you’ve never been in that situation.”

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