Patients less likely to recognize women as attending physicians, study finds

Female attending physicians are less likely to be recognized as physicians than their male counterparts, signaling that gender bias is still pervasive in the healthcare industry, according to a study published in the Journal of Women's Health.

For the study, researchers surveyed 150 adult patients at an urban teaching hospital in Miami Beach, Fla., after encounters with a nurse, resident or attending physician in the emergency department. The survey asked patients to identify the role of healthcare professionals on their care team.

Overall, patients correctly identified male residents or attendings as physicians 76 percent of the time, compared to 71 percent for female residents and attendings.

However, correct recognition of female attending physicians was far lower (58.1 percent) than that of male attending physicians (75.7 percent).

"Despite the fact that about 52 percent of all medical students are women, unconscious/ implicit bias is so strong that even when women introduce themselves to patients as the doctor, patients fail to recognize the female as a physician," Lisa Moreno-Walton, MD, study author and emergency medicine professor at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, said in a press release.

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