Debate Heats Up Over Anesthesiologist Op-Ed on Female Physician Workload

Several physicians have responded to a New York Times op-ed in which anesthesiologist Karen Sibert, MD, said female physicians should work longer hours to offset the growing shortage of physicians.

Suzanne Koven, MD, a primary care internist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said female physicians disproportionately choose fields where the most severe shortages exist, such as primary care. Therefore, pressuring female physicians to work full-time is not the answer to the physician shortage; instead, primary care and other fields must be restructured and better-paid to attract more physicians, regardless of gender.

She added that the increasing interest in part-time work does not only apply to female physicians. According to a 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, 21 percent of American physicians work part-time, and one of the fast-growing segments of that population is older male physicians.

Dr. Koven pointed out that physician burnout, increased malpractice costs and increased administrative duties all contribute to the desire for part-time work — not just maternity leave or family duties.

Helen Meldrum, MD, associate professor of psychology at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., was a little more critical of Dr. Sibert's piece. She said that many young physicians are told by senior physicians that money lies in radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology and dermatology, driving physicians away from shortage-ridden areas such as primary care. She said, "With all that extra income, [Dr. Sibert] certainly has the option of hiring a lot of extra help to make her life more manageable."

Read Dr. Koven's response to Dr. Sibert's editorial.

Related Articles on Anesthesia:
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