Brian McKinstry whines about women taking over medicine

This prat thinks there are too many women in medicine, recklessly dragging quality standards up.


For some reason, the British Medical Journal decided to host a trite debate on the subject, “Are there too many female medical graduates?

The “Yes” argument was put by Brian McKinstry, GP and research fellow with a special interest in telemedicine and a job chairing a medical student examination board in Edinburgh.

Much of his argument centres around the contention that Britain should back off on training and hiring women in medicine. Why? Because they tend to have other caring demands in their lives, limiting the opportunity for the country to squeeze every last drop of labour (and spirit) out of them in a long, workaholic career. Feminism has failed, and therefore must cease immediately! He whinges:

Female doctors are more likely to work part time than their male colleagues. Despite many years of feminist discourse society still expects women rather than men to reduce work commitments to look after children and not to return to full time work until the children are older. However, research among general practitioners has shown that many women in their 50s, when their children are relatively independent, continue to work part time, often because of other caring demands.

And his punchline?

Men and women may bring different, complementary skills to medicine. There is some evidence that women engage in more patient centred communication. However, women consult for longer with patients, and in one UK study of out of hours consultations they were 30% more likely to refer to hospital increasing pressure on hospital services. Moreover, recent UK research shows that even full time female consultants see fewer patients than their male colleagues. Empathy and communication skills are important, but so are efficiency and the ability to live with risk.

Because what we really need in this world is more low-quality, production-line medicine. As official policy. Did anyone else get a shudder down their spine?

Categories: education, gender & feminism, medicine


10 replies

  1. recklessly dragging quality standards up

    Oh, the humanity!

  2. oh my god! brian mckinstry has shown me the way! what am i doing in medical school when my caring, patient-centered nature will clearly be a detriment to the profession?!
    perhaps he could direct me to some other “caring demands” with which to occupy my free time?
    ladoctorita’s last blog post..paging amy?s brain!

  3. Problem: sexism makes more women work part time.
    Solution: MORE SEXISM!
    I hope Edinburgh’s medical students get this guy kicked off the exam board pronto. And I say that as a proud Edinburgh graduate.
    MissPrism’s last blog post..Showbiz

  4. The implication that women are naturally “caring and empathetic”, while men are “efficient” really bothers me. I don’t think that those qualities are mutually exclusive at all, and I would think that physicians who have responsibilities for child care outside of their practice (as many women do) would necessarily learn to be more efficient. Also, there are brusque women and empathetic men, but that’s pretty obvious.
    Some anti-woman pundits here in the US (e.g., Charlotte Allen) make similar claims about women who enter scientific fields. The argument is that increasing numbers of women in science will ruin American scientific productivity, what with their taking care of families and housework and all, so gals shouldn’t be encouraged to enter those fields. Only women who are willing to focus all their time and energy on their jobs, like their male colleagues with full-time housewives, are acceptable. I haven’t seen any evidence that that kind of single-minded focus – in science or medicine – actually leads to better work.
    Peggy’s last blog post..Big Think: Shirley Tilghman on Women in Science

  5. Yes! I really hate the equation of women with ‘caring’. But ironically, even if they are (through socialisation, not genes, natrually) on average, surely that would make them better doctors, seeing as the cost of misdiagnosing something like meningitis or appendicitis (both can kill in hours if ignored, scarily enough) would be far greater than the cost of spending slightly longer in appointments, or referring more people to specialists. Diagnosing diseases earlier SAVES the NHS money, because they are easier to treat, not to mention you get less suits for negligence. Why does having an exhausted doctor who’s just worked 80 hours before they see me mean better health care? That’s not mentioning that the hours here will have to be reduced for every doctor to bring it in line with the EU’s guideline of no more than 48 hours a week, so even the manly man doctors won’t be allowed to work the hours this relic thinks is vital to medicine.
    Besides, if women choose to go into more ‘family-friendly’ fields, whose fault is it that the other fields are practically impossible? Yes, we know women have problems, he says, and they are the fault of society. To rectify this, we need less women in medicine, because they are ruining it with their vaginal cooties caring, child-loving ways.
    Damn it, you stuffy denizen of the Old Boy’s Netherworld, how the hell does that help your female colleagues, who you admit face pressures?
    And how come women who work are neglecting their kids, and bad at their job, but it’s considered acceptable (indeed, admirable) for fathers to work ungodly hours to build an illustrious career? what’s good for the goose…
    I found a decent rebuttal here:
    I read this a few days ago, and I’m still mad. Yep.

  6. It sounds like a high school debate where you get given a random thing to argue in favour of and you just have to brainstorm everything you can think to say about it, whether you believe it or not.
    That a bloke must be free of family distractions to devote himself entirely to the church and community is one of the big arguments for the celibate priesthood, Dr McKinstry missed a big rhetorical opportunity to go one step further. Perhaps that was on the second speaker’s set of file cards.

  7. I also wanted to offer the benefit of the doubt based on the debating format. But the argument still clearly sucks. Was the debate perhaps part of Edinburgh Fringe? A brilliant comedic perfomance?
    I’d certainly prefer to see a doctor who’s had a decent night’s sleep, has time in the week to do something other than work, and values family relationships enough to care for his or her children/partner/parents. My all-time favourite GP (recently lost to me when the University packaged him off post-VSU) is a man, who spent several years working four day weeks so that he could care for his children. Knowing that made talking to him about pregnancy, my childbirth options, and my newborn’s health significantly easier.

  8. I hope in his old age Dr McKinstry gets to experience the type of care he is pushing. 5 minutes or less with his Dr, concerns and cares ignored, out the door that will be $50 thanks. Come back when you are really sick. Like when whatever it is you have that I have failed to take the time to diagnose really hits hard and I can see in five minutes what the issue is.
    Mindy’s last blog post..Coz and Ob Australian Tour 2008

  9. Amanda:

    That a bloke must be free of family distractions to devote himself entirely to the church and community is one of the big arguments for the celibate priesthood, Dr McKinstry missed a big rhetorical opportunity to go one step further.

    Ha, this cracked me up.

  10. I haven’t seen any evidence that that kind of single-minded focus – in science or medicine – actually leads to better work.

    I have a fair bit of anecdotal evidence suggesting the opposite. Unless you define “better” in some quite bizarre ways, including the studied detachment and cram-‘em-through attitude that this writer reveres.

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