Patients’ Perceptions of Female Doctors

Female doctors, especially those in their early careers, might be worried about being judged as less competent than their male counterparts by colleagues and patients alike. However, research by Shah and Ogden suggests that young female doctors should be more confident in how they are perceived, at least by patients.

In their study they presented patients with one of eight pictures of a doctor who was either young or old, male or female and Asian or White and asked them about their perceptions of and reactions to those doctors, for example how comfortable they would feel with the doctor physically examining them or how good they thought the doctor would be at explaining the cause of their symptoms to them. While Asian and White doctors were perceived quite similarly, young and female doctors were overall evaluated more positively. For example, patients believed that younger doctors were more likely to have a positive personal manner and better technical skills. They also stated that they would have more faith into the younger doctors’ diagnosis. Similarly, female doctors were – maybe not surprisingly – rated as more likely to explore the emotional aspects of health and having a better personal manner. However, contrary to stereotypes, they were also rated as having better technical skills and patients had more faith in their diagnoses.

So can we hope that we are slowly moving away from the stereotype of the old, white, male doctor? Patients certainly seem to do so!

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