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Yvonne M Buys, Chryssa McAlister, Yaping Jin, Rosa Braga-Mele, Béatrice Des Marchais; Gender trends and practice differences of Canadian ophthalmologists. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2014;55(13):5581.
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To describe the changing demographic of ophthalmologists in Canada and gender differences in practice patterns and lifestyle.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information database was used to determine the yearly number, mean age and gender of licensed ophthalmologists and all other physicians in Canada from 1970-2011. A 48-item questionnaire was sent to Canadian ophthalmologists asking about practice patterns and lifestyle issues. Results were analyzed using χ2 and Fisher’s exact test where appropriate.
The ophthalmology workforce is aging from a mean age of 44.7 in 1970 to 53.1 in 2011. The proportion of female ophthalmologists has also increased from 3.1% in 1970 to 21.4% in 2011. Compared to all other physicians, ophthalmologists were significantly older by a mean of 2.4±0.9 years and the proportion of women was significantly less (36.8% for all other physicians in 2011) with the gender gap between ophthalmologists and all other physicians increasing from 4.8% in 1970 to 16.3% in 2011. 385 (102 female) ophthalmologists (30% response rate) completed the survey. 51% of women reported operating <2 days per month as compared to 36% of men (p=0.01) despite similar clinical hours. No statistically significant differences were found in other practice pattern parameters including laser refractive surgery, hospital affiliation, university appointment/rank and # of peer-review publications. 90% of males and 81% of females report having ≥1 child, but men report larger families (p<0.001). Women are commonly the primary caregivers while men report their partners as primary caregivers (p<0.001). Men report having part-time (41%) or unemployed partners (15%) who work in allied healthcare professions (p<0.001); women more commonly report full-time employed partners (72%) who are physicians or not in healthcare (p<0.001). 52% of women are unhappy with the amount of parental leave (p<0.001). 51% of women feel childbearing slowed or markedly slowed career progress, as compared to 15% of men (p<0.001).
Ophthalmology workforce planning needs to consider the aging and feminization of the workforce since the way older physicians and female physicians practice will assume greater influence. The cause of differences in gender practice patterns, such as women reporting significantly less surgical time, needs to be explored to determine if this is due to barriers or choice.
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