J Gen Intern Med. 2023 Aug 31. doi: 10.1007/s11606-023-08371-5. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Women physicians have faced persistent challenges, including gender bias, salary inequities, a disproportionate share of caregiving and domestic responsibilities, and limited representation in leadership. Data indicate the COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted and exacerbated these inequities.
OBJECTIVE: To understand the pandemic's impact on women physicians and to brainstorm solutions to better support women physicians.
DESIGN: Mixed-gender semi-structured focus groups.
PARTICIPANTS: Hospitalists in the Hospital Medicine Reengineering Network (HOMERuN).
APPROACH: Six semi-structured virtual focus groups were held with 22 individuals from 13 institutions comprised primarily of academic hospitalist physicians. Rapid qualitative methods including templated summaries and matrix analysis were applied to identify major themes and subthemes.
KEY RESULTS: Four key themes emerged: (1) the pandemic exacerbated perceived gender inequities, (2) women's academic productivity and career development were negatively impacted, (3) women held disproportionate roles as caregivers and household managers, and (4) institutional pandemic responses were often misaligned with workforce needs, especially those of women hospitalists. Multiple interventions were proposed including: creating targeted workforce solutions and benefits to address the disproportionate caregiving burden placed on women, addressing hospitalist scheduling and leave practices, ensuring promotion pathways value clinical and COVID-19 contributions, creating transparency around salary and non-clinical time allocation, and ensuring women are better represented in leadership roles.
CONCLUSIONS: Hospitalists perceived and experienced that women physicians faced negative impacts from the pandemic in multiple domains including leadership opportunities and scholarship, while also shouldering larger caregiving duties than men. There are many opportunities to improve workplace conditions for women; however, current institutional efforts were perceived as misaligned to actual needs. Thus, policy and programmatic changes, such as those proposed by this cohort of hospitalists, are needed to advance equity in the workplace.