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Mitigating the gender gap: How "DOCTOR" badges affect physician identity.

OBJECTIVES: Patients and their families frequently misclassify female physicians in the Emergency Department (ED) as non-physicians. Physician misidentification impacts the environment of care on multiple levels; including patient satisfaction and physician well-being. Implementing "DOCTOR" badges may be a low-cost tool to rectify these problems.

METHODS: The study was conducted in a large urban academic medical center. Badges with the title "DOCTOR" was distributed to 83 Emergency Medicine (EM) residents and 28 EM Attendings in the department. After 3 months, the residents and Attendings were surveyed to assess the efficacy of the intervention. Descriptive data, univariable, and multivariable analyses were conducted.

RESULTS: There were 98 respondents to the pre-intervention survey and 87 respondents to the post-intervention survey. 91% of EM physicians reported that they were misidentified by the patients and their families. Compared to male EM physicians, female EM physicians were disproportionately more likely to be misidentified as a non-physician 43% vs 97%, respectfully, 95% CI: [37,66], p < 0.0001. After wearing the "DOCTOR" badges, a postintervention survey showed decrease in misidentification of female EM physicians by patients and their families to 81.6%, a 15.4% decrease, p = 0.03. Being more valued was reported by 73.7% female physicians vs. 44.9% male physicians, 95% CI [7.9,46], p = 0.007. Similarly, 64.3% EM physicians felt less frustration with misclassification, 81.6% female physicians vs. 51% male physicians, 95% CI [10.5,47], p = 0.0033.

CONCLUSIONS: Female EM physicians are disproportionately misidentified by patients and their families and are more likely to feel undervalued when clarifying their roles. In only a span of 3 months, we found that the use of "DOCTOR" badges decreased misidentification and improved outcomes that may enhance physician wellness. Having EM physicians wear a "DOCTOR" badge may be a simple and effective long-term solution to this issue.

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