Over the past 50 years, the percentage of female surgeons has been steadily increasing across most of the developed societies. This is not only a positive direction for equality but also because you are less likely to die within a month of having an operation performed by a female surgeon.
Researchers from the University of Toronto looked at 104,630 patients who had surgery between the years 2007 and 2015. These patients were selected to eliminate variables such as sex, age, income and other conditions. Surgeons were selected based on age and experience, the hospital they worked at, as well as the number of surgeries they had performed.
Taking all of these variables into account, researchers found that female surgeons were more effective at keeping their patients alive during the 30 days after the operation is performed.
Dr. Raj Satkunasivam, who conducted the study, stated the difference could be because of the way women deliver care.
“Women and men practice medicine differently, although little research exists on the differences in learning styles, acquisition of skills, or outcomes for female and male surgeons,” the authors wrote.
“We don’t know the mechanism that underlies better outcomes for patients treated by female surgeons, although it might be related to the delivery of care that is more congruent with guidelines, more patient-centered, and involves superior communication.”
The British Medical Journal published research that also found that fewer patients treated by female surgeons were readmitted to the hospital within that timeframe and had fewer complications. These differences, however, were not found to be statistically significant.
If you had the choice on the gender of your surgeon, would you choose a female?
“Surgery is a specialty that continues to struggle with unconscious bias among patients and health professionals, and gender inequality persists,” The Royal College of Surgeons responded in an editorial.
“This study helps combat lingering biases by confirming the safety, skill, and expertise of women surgeons relative to their male colleagues.”
However, they stress that “with so many critical factors to consider, trying to find out why there is a very small difference in short-term clinical outcomes between male and female surgeons is unlikely to prove worthwhile.”
“Nor are we convinced that the sex of the surgeon will emerge as an important determinant of a good outcome for patients having surgery.”
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