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"I am the doctor": gender-based bias within the clinical practice of emergency medicine in Canada-a thematic analysis of physician and trainee interview data.

CJEM 2024 March 23
OBJECTIVES: While women comprise about half of current Canadian medical students and physicians, only 31% of emergency medicine physicians identify as women and women trainees are less likely to express interest in emergency medicine compared to men. Gender-based bias continues to negatively impact the career choice, progress, and well-being of women physicians/trainees. Although instances of gender-based bias are well documented within other medical specialties, there remains a gap in the literature addressing the role of gender specific to the Canadian emergency medicine clinical environment.

METHODS: Using a qualitative study with a thematic analytical approach, participants were purposively and snowball sampled from a cross-section of centers across Canada and included emergency medicine attending physicians and trainees. A thematic analysis using an inductive and deductive approach was undertaken. All data were double coded to improve study trustworthiness. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the study population.

RESULTS: Thirty-four individuals (17 woman-identifying and 17 man-identifying) from 10 different institutions across 4 provinces in Canada participated in the study. Six themes were identified: (1) women experience gender bias in the form of microaggressions; (2) women experience imposter syndrome and question their role in the clinical setting; (3) more women provide patient care to women patients and vulnerable populations; (4) gender-related challenges with family planning and home responsibilities affect work-life balance; (5) allyship and sponsorship are important for the support and development of women physicians and trainees; and (6) women value discussing shared experiences with other women to debrief situations, find mentorship, and share advice.

CONCLUSIONS: Gender inequity in emergency medicine affects women-identifying providers at all levels of training across Canada. Described experiences support several avenues to implement change against perceived gender bias that is focused on education, policy, and supportive spaces. We encourage institutions to consider these recommendations to achieve gender-equitable conditions in emergency medicine across Canada.

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