Letters: It’s time for leaders to lead in advancing women in healthcare

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“If the CEO isn’t engaged, it’s not going to work.” That’s the last line in the recent article, “Few women reach healthcare leadership roles.” The Aug. 12 cover story “Healthcare leaders continue to overlook assault, discrimination” is yet another example of little change in the status quo.

Where the lack of women in healthcare leadership is a problem, CEOs seem more engaged in keeping their job, not doing it. These articles could have been published 20 years ago. That’s how long “needing” more women at the executive level has been “talked about.” The reason back then? Not enough women in the pipeline. What’s the excuse now?

About 80% of the healthcare workforce is made up of women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But fewer than 20% hold key leadership roles, according to Katie Bell, Korn Ferry global account lead for the healthcare sector. There’s just too much to lose for those in power to make sure women are promoted in healthcare, where the majority of healthcare decisions are made by women. (According to the U.S. Labor Department, women make 80% of healthcare decisions in the U.S.)

Women’s value system is different and accountability is of greater value to women. Saying there’s no time for diversity and inclusion efforts is how to keep the old boy network intact. Where’s the leadership? Boards must insist on action and hold management accountable. Let’s go already!

Oh, and where to look? Once again, nursing was ranked the most trusted profession in a recent Gallup ethics survey. The annual poll of Americans found that 84% of respondents rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as high or very high. More than 90% of nurses are women. And for the second consecutive year, women made up a majority (51.6% in 2018) of those enrolling in medical school, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Linda Galindo
President
Galindo Consulting
Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Regarding the article “1 in 7 internal medicine residents are bullied,” I would like to inject a note of caution before arriving at a firm conclusion regarding “bullying” as reported by physician trainees.

In my varied career spanning 30 years, both as clinician and healthcare administrator, it is clear to me that there is a profound difference between expressing significant displeasure or disappointment at repeating fundamental mistakes that have potentially life- and limb-threatening complications and actual “bullying.”

I have personally witnessed nurses and physicians whose response to being corrected in the high-stakes endeavor of healthcare is self-righteous indignation. Instead of taking personal responsibility for committing repeated mistakes or being called out for taking shortcuts in clinical work, there are a subset of individuals who subscribe to the theory that “the best defense is a good offense.”

I urge caution when interpreting the conclusions of this article. Sadly, there are bullies in all walks of life, but let us not misinterpret the responsibility of the trainer to evaluate and correct the trainee.

Perhaps it is harsh to say, but our responsibility is to protect current and future patients. This is not a popularity contest. No one enjoys being called out for committing mistakes.

Let’s get both sides of the story before advocating for some fundamental change in how we train. Hold the true bully accountable, absolutely, but do not allow a failing trainee to avoid the unpleasantness of being corrected by claiming harassment. The stakes are very high.

Dr. Paul Franke
Longmont, Colo.

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