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„In my View, the Shortage of Physicians Is a Chance”
Elke Buckisch-Urbanke is chairman of the Marburg Union in Lower Saxony. MEDICA.de spoke to the physician about working conditions, bush telegraph and heroes in white.
MEDICA.de: Meanwhile, there are more female medical students than male. Why is that?
Elke Buckisch-Urbanke: Medicine is not as interesting as before for young men since the occupational image changed. The job is less socially accepted and the pay is worse. Another reason for the high percentage of women is that their graduations are better on average. That is why they have no problems with the numerus clausus.
MEDICA.de: Job and family are hardly to combine in general. Shift work makes it more difficult as hospital-owned kindergartens and child care outside office hours are rare. Could physicians shortage get worse by feminisation?
Buckisch-Urbanke: That is a giant danger. Women with family often work part-time, if they still work in a hospital. Most of them leave hospital and work in administration or industry, for example, because of regular working hours and part-time jobs.
MEDICA.de: Are there no possibilities to work part-time in hospitals?
Buckisch-Urbanke: That depends on the discipline. There are hardly part-time jobs offered in surgery as the image of the hero in white being available any time is dominant. Part-time jobs are more common in anaesthesia. Altogether, such job-offers are rising as full-time professionals are rarer to find. However, further education is more difficult to realise in part-time jobs. Probably, that is why 41 percent of all female physicians have no residency. It is more difficult to go in for a career in part-time, yet. A senior physician in part-time is definitely a rarity.
MEDICA.de: Two years ago, only 11 percent of all chief physicians were female. What can women do to improve their career chances?
Buckisch-Urbanke: In my view, there are three points. First, they have to develop a career plan and follow it stringently. Second, they should join mentoring and coaching programmes where experienced female doctors support younger ones and give them helpful advices. And third, they should build or join social networks. This point is especially important. Men are better at networking in general. Before an attractive job will be formally offered, women should inform others by the bush telegraph.
MEDICA.de: What has to be changed in order to improve career chances for women?
Buckisch-Urbanke: We need more hospital-owned kindergartens, flexible child care and working hours. This is the basic requirement which allows more women to stay in the job. To improve career chances a rethink in medical profession is necessary. Employers should appreciate that women gain additional skills while keeping their family, for example communicational skills or the ability to deal with conflicts. Moreover, parental leave should be natural for fathers as well.
MEDICA.de: A study at the Hombourg/Saar University, which was published last month, concluded that female doctors are more concentrated on caring than their male colleagues. Astrid Bühren, president of the German Female Physicians Union, believes, that this worsens women’s career chances.
Buckisch-Urbanke: She is absolutely right. If a woman takes plenty of time for patient care, it will not be appreciated. Her male colleague who focuses on further education and science will have much better chances of advancement. Patient care has to be more cherished since this is our main business.
MEDICA.de: The Marburg Union has recently initiated a campaign for family-friendly hospitals. Smaller hospitals attract qualified staff by offering good child care and flexible working hours. When do you believe will bigger clinics follow?
Buckisch-Urbanke: They will follow, if they get short-staffed. In this case, employers will be forced to improve labour conditions. If medical staff is overproportionally female, employers will have to think about how to gain and hold those women. Therefore, in my view, the physicians shortage is a chance for female doctors. It will also lead to more leading positions occupied by women.
The interview was conducted by Sonja Endres.