Objective We examined the differences in work patterns between female and male doctors in Canada to gain insight into the effect of an increased number of female doctors on overall doctor productivity.
Methods Data on the practice profiles of female and male doctors across Canada were extracted from the 2007 National Physician Survey. A doctor productivity measure, ‘work hours per week per population’ (WHPWPP), was created, based on the number of weekly doctor hours spent providing direct patient care per 100 000 citizens. The predicted WHPWPP was calculated for a hypothetical time-point when the female and male doctor populations reach equilibrium. The differences in current and predicted WHPWPP were then analysed.
Results Female medical students currently (2007) outnumber male medical students (at 57.8% of the medical student population). The percentage of practising doctors who are women is highest in the fields of paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, psychiatry and family practice. Female doctors work an average of 47.5 hours per week (giving 30.0 hours of direct patient care), compared with 53.8 hours worked by male doctors (35.0 hours of direct patient care) (P < 0.01, χ2 test). Female doctors tend to work less on call hours per week and see fewer patients while on-call. Female doctors are also more likely to take parental leave or a leave of absence (P < 0.01, χ2 test). The difference in current and predicted WHPWPP was found to be 2.6%, equivalent to 1853 fewer full-time female doctors or 1588 fewer full-time male doctors.
Conclusions Gender appears to have a significant influence on the practice patterns of doctors in Canada. If the gender-specific work patterns described in the present study persist, an overall decrease in doctor productivity is to be anticipated.