Characteristics of Women Internists

Erica Frank, MD, MPH; Tricia Kunovich-Frieze, MD; Giselle Corbie-Smith, MD

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Objective: The authors wished to describe characteristics of US women general and subspecialized internists and to compare them with each other and with other US women physicians.
Design/Setting/Patients: The authors used data from the Women Physicians' Health Study (WPHS), a national questionnaire-based study of 4501 women physicians.
Results: Women internists reported less (P ≤ .01) career satisfaction than did other women physicians. Women general internists were also more likely than other women primary care physicians to report severe work stress and were more likely than other women internists and other primary care women physicians to want to change their specialty if reliving their lives. Compared with other subspecialties, subspecialized women internists were more likely to report working too much, and reported lower personal incomes and more hours of nonclinical work than did other women internists or other women specialists. For virtually all 14 examined counseling practices, subspecialized women internists reported more interest and confidence regarding counseling (and usually by substantial margins), and believed that they were better trained in counseling than were other women subspecialists. Women general internists performed somewhat better regarding counseling than did other women primary care practitioners, although this differential was neither as consistent nor as strong as those among women subspecialists.
Conclusion: US women general and subspecialized internists differ in a number of ways from each other and from other US women physicians. Particularly significantly, US women internists report several risk factors for career dissatisfaction, and, in fact, have less career satisfaction than do other women physicians.

Internal medicine is changing in many ways, including rapidly increasing numbers of women in the discipline. The number of women internists more than tripled between 1970 and 1980, and more than doubled between 1980 and 1990.[1] In 1994, there were 25,296 female internists, and women represented 22.6% of internists and 31.3% of internal medicine residents.[1] Although physician characteristics are important predictors of patient outcomes[2] and may also be inherently of interest, there have been no large studies of personal health choices or other major characteristics of women internists.

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