NewsWomen in healthcare face significantly higher burnout rates than men

Women in healthcare face significantly higher burnout rates than men

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WASHINGTON (Feb. 22, 2024) — A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences has unveiled a distressing reality for women in healthcare occupations. The findings, published in the journal Global Advances in Integrative Medicine and Health, highlight that female healthcare professionals experience significantly higher levels of stress and burnout compared to their male counterparts.

The research, led by Leigh A. Frame, associate director of the GW Resiliency & Well-being Center, delves into the global landscape, marking the first comprehensive analysis of the relationship between work-related stress and the well-being of women in healthcare professions. With the COVID-19 pandemic intensifying concerns about healthcare burnout, the study sheds light on the immense pressures faced by women who strive to succeed both in their professional roles and domestic responsibilities.

Key Findings:

Gender Inequality Exacerbates Stress: The study reveals that gender inequality in the workplace contributes to added stress and burnout for female healthcare professionals. Stereotypes, such as assuming a woman in scrubs is a nurse rather than a physician, underscore the challenges faced by women in the field.

Contributing Factors to Harmful Stress: Poor work-life integration and a lack of workplace autonomy emerged as additional factors leading to detrimental stress among female healthcare professionals.

Protective Factors Against Burnout: Conversely, a supportive and flexible working environment, access to professional development, supportive relationships, and intentional mindfulness practices were identified as protective factors shielding women from stress and burnout.

Leigh A. Frame emphasizes that the healthcare workplace, both in the United States and globally, amplifies stress for women. Long working hours, multiple shifts, and the juggling act of on-the-job demands with family responsibilities create a daunting scenario for many female healthcare workers.

Moreover, the analysis underscores the disproportionate burden placed on female healthcare professionals who are often assigned to patients with complex medical problems. Handling such cases demands more emotional energy and time, exacerbating stress in environments that prioritize speed over comprehensive care.

The study advocates for systemic solutions beyond individual coping mechanisms. Frame asserts that healthcare employers and policymakers must collaborate to develop strategies that address burnout, a pervasive issue leading to problems like healthcare workforce shortages.

The research, titled “The Well-being of Women in Healthcare Professions: A Comprehensive Review,” was published in Global Advances in Integrative Medicine and Health. The paper’s first author is Viktoriya Karakcheyeva, the behavioral services director of the GW Resiliency & Well-being Center, with co-authors Haneefa Willis-Johnson and Patrick Corr from the same center. The study urges a collective effort to tackle the systemic challenges faced by women in healthcare professions and calls for a reevaluation of workplace structures to ensure the well-being of all healthcare professionals.

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