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Innovative Wellness Models Support Advancement Retention Among Women


Andrea L. Braden, MD, IBCLC, FACOG

Co-author Andrea L. Braden, MD, IBCLC, FACOG

Women physicians face ongoing inequities and discrimination, an imbalance between responsibilities at work and home, and higher rates of burnout than their male colleagues. Systemic barriers impede their career advancement. Academic medicine, for example, made little progress in closing the gender equity gap in leadership positions from 1997 to 2013. This paper outlines three innovative wellness models that support women physician’s advancement and retention.

Model 1: Redefine Productivity and Create Innovative Work Models

Women physicians typically work more hours a week—including uncompensated and invisible work—than their male peers for less recognition. When work and promotion models become more reflective of physicians’ complete work lives, barriers to advancement and diversity can be lowered. Effective changes may include holding meetings during the workday, customizing physicians’ schedules allowing space for clinical and nonclinical activities, crediting physicians for uncompensated work such as mentoring or committee service, and compensation models driven by value-based care metrics rather than productivity.

Model 2: Promote Equity Through Workplace Redesign

Workplace redesign has been associated in a randomized trial with a substantially lower risk of burnout in primary care. At ChristianaCare in Wilmington, Delaware, well-being efforts that promote career advancement for women physicians include external audits of compensation and promotion, measurement of mistreatment by gender, revised family leave policies, implicit bias training, a lactation lounge, an environmental scan to identify elements of the physical environment that might contribute to inequity, surveys of the health care workforce, and support for women’s networking and mentorship.

Model 3: Recruit, Promote, Measure, and Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion efforts are intertwined with the well-being of the workforce and employees’ sense of connectedness to their organizations. Evidence supports intentionally promoting more women and people of color into first-level management as a means of establishing diverse leadership teams in medicine. This requires diverse applicant pools, explicit criteria for promotion, and implicit bias training. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Bias Reduction in Internal Medicine Initiative led to increased hiring of women into STEMM departments.

Read More: ACOG Celebrates Women in Medicine Month

Source: Women in Medicine journal supplement, Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, September 2021.