How’s that for a title for this edition of Fun With Statistics? But before I receive a bunch of comments that I have the power to simply discard, let’s learn a bit more. First off, some background.
Various studies have projected a shortfall of anywhere from 50,000 to
100,000 physicians in the U.S. relative to demand by 2020, and the
Institute of Medicine, a federal advisory body, just reported that in a
mere three years senior citizens will be facing a health-care workforce
that is "too small and woefully unprepared."
So… what does that have to do with women?
This looming shortage is forcing into the open a controversy that has
been cautiously debated in hospitals and medical practices for some
time: Are women doctors part of the problem? It’s not the abilities of
female doctors that are in question. It’s that study after study has
found women doctors tend to work 20% to 25% fewer hours than their male
And now I’ll get myself off the hook. The women aren’t lazy, they simply value balance in their lives.
Women doctors in the U.S. work less—47 hours per week on average,
versus 53 for men. They also see about 10% fewer patients and tend to
take more time off early in their careers. "It’s pretty much an even
bet that within a year or two of entering practice they will go on
maternity leave," says Phillip Miller, a vice-president of the medical
recruiting firm Merritt, Hawkins & Associates. "Then they are going
to want more flexible hours."
This does create some advantages.
On the plus side, women are willing to take on lower-paying specialties
that male doctors are moving away from, such as primary care,
pediatrics, and obstetrics. Since 1996 there has been a 40% jump in the
number of women choosing primary care, offsetting the 16% decline in
men entering the field. A lighter workload also has its advantages. "Lots of studies show
that doctors who work fewer hours have less burnout," says Dr. Joseph
Flaherty, dean of University of Illinois College of Medicine. "There is
a strong association between long hours and medical errors."
But the real lesson is for the future, when both men and women will be looking for balance… and how that will impact statistics. As you look at your workforce and consider the level as well as the succession plans I’m sure you already have in place (right…?), do you account for an increasing desire for balance? Or are you driving them hard? If so, you may be surprised by how your workforce has to grow over the next few years just to accomplish the same tasks.
Of course the other option is to focus on lean manufacturing and lean enterprise methods to reduce the number of tasks to balance with the load your employees are willing to take on.
Hmmm, 47 hours vs 53 hours. Computes to about an 11% reduction in hours, not 20% – 25%. Talk about lazy!
david foster says
Hmmmm…if Margaret will become a doctor only if her average work week is less than 50 hours, then does accepting Margaret as a doctor *increase* or *decrease* the supply of physicians?
The article seems to assume that the answer is “decrease.” But this is true only if the number of physicians is fixed, so that Margaret’s admission to the profession keeps another person out.
Somebody needs to take a good look at the constraints on medical school admissions and whether these are based on true capacity limitations or on anticompetitive intentions.