To address the experience in women's health care available at the Queen's University Faculty of Medicine family residency program and to compare the amounts and types of experiences of men and women residents.
A retrospective analysis was made of 70,805 patient encounters with family medicine residents at the Queen's University Family Medicine Centre over a five-year period (June 1988-May 1993). Patient-encounter files contained patient, staff, and resident information, as well as service and diagnostic codes. Statistical analysis was done using a two-tailed Student's t-test to compare the mean numbers of encounters with the women patients for the men and women residents in ten service and diagnostic categories.
Of the 70,805 patients, 65.1% were women. The mean numbers of patients seen by the 45 men residents (534) and the 90 women residents (519) did not differ significantly. The percentages of the women patients seen by the men and the women residents (58.6% and 68.4%, respectively), however, differed significantly. The mean ages of the women patients seen by the men and the women residents (44.5 years and 39.2 years, respectively) also differed significantly. The women had significantly more encounters with the women patients in five of the ten categories studied.
The differences between the men and women residents' experiences was significant in several areas. A potentially confounding factor is that the women may have been preferentially placed in team areas with all women staff physicians and the men placed in team areas with all men staff physicians. As family medicine programs aim for levels of exposure that are sufficient and similar for men and women residents, it is important that they evaluate the clinical opportunities for residents in women's health and work to ensure that both men and women residents receive adequate exposure in this area. One step in this direction might be gender-balanced patient populations, which might be obtained by ensuring gender-balanced clinical teams.