Burnout prevalence is 20 to 60 percent higher among women physicians than their male colleagues. Understanding why women physicians are burning out is important for identifying effective ways to address the problem.
Here’s my take on the underlying causes:
1. Women physicians provide more time-intensive care. Female primary care physicians have longer patient visits and engage in more patient-centered communication. Female surgeons in training write longer notes, spend more time in clinical review, and spend more time handling in-box messages than their male peers.
2. Female patients gravitate to women physicians and tend to want to talk more than male patients. A 2018 study found that women physicians have more female patients than male physicians do, and female patients want longer visits and more empathetic listening, especially from women. However, female physicians are generally not afforded additional time to meet these additional patient expectations.
3. Women physicians are more likely to be married to spouses who work full time than male physicians. A 2014 study of young physician-researchers showed that female physicians were far more likely to have a spouse that worked full time than male physicians (86% versus 45%). Two careers usually equates to more money, but also more stress and trickier logistical challenges.