Dr. Vineet Arora: Female physicians are not immune to the 'she-cession'

Women, including female physicians, were hit hard during the pandemic, as they juggled their careers and a plethora of caregiving responsibilities, according to Vinnet Arora, MD, speaking on a March 21 American Medical Association podcast.

Dr. Arora, dean for medical education of the Biological Sciences Division at University of Chicago Medicine, told the AMA that female physicians, already facing disproportionate rates of burnout, have not been insulated from the "she-cession."

Female physicians are taking early retirements or moving into jobs with better work-life balance in response to burnout and stress. 

"Many careers, including being a leader in medicine, have not been compatible with being a woman or a caregiver in medicine. We are seeing that the pandemic has exacerbated this issue, particularly for women and others, intersectional identities, those that have caregiving responsibilities that's become really urgent," she said. 

It's not just caregiving and lack of work-life balance that is driving female physicians to quit, but also the toll of judgment and mistreatment.

"When women are taking leadership roles, even in the residency setting to help improve patient care, they are judged unfairly compared to their male counterparts," she said. "That can also lead to burnout."

Also, even when women are at the top of their organizations, they can face the "glass cliff" phenomenon, in which women are chosen to lead already failing companies, making their jobs harder and their performance more judged. 

"I would argue that this whole crisis that we have in burnout is because it's not the system that produces those healthy, stable doctors. We need to really lead the way to produce healthy, stable doctors, and we can if we are just willing to change," said Dr. Arora. 

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