Women and men doctors differ in their knowledge of sex-specific complaints during general practice training

A new study from the University of Lincoln and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Applied Knowledge Test Development Group reveals that women doctors have greater knowledge about women’s medical problems than men doctors during their training to become general practitioners. The study entitled, ‘Comparing performance among male and female candidates in sex- specific clinical knowledge in the MRCGP‘, was published in the British Journal of General Practice this month and is the first to look at sex-specific clinical knowledge in a medical licensing examination. The Applied Knowledge Test is a component of the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners, which doctors training to be GPs need to pass to be deemed fit for independent practice.

Many female patients choose to see a woman doctor, because they feel more at ease with their communication style or feel more confident in their knowledge of women’s medicine. This study shows that on average women doctors know more about women’s medicine than men at a similar stage of training and after taking other factors into account – so women may be justified in choosing a woman doctor on this basis. Conversely male doctors in training did not appear to know more about men’s problems.

The reason for this difference is a matter for speculation. Women doctors are much more likely to see more female patients during training and might be encouraged to learn more about women’s problems as a result of this greater exposure as well as through their own personal experience. The implication for GP training schemes is that they should ensure that male GP trainees are enabled to see more women patients or learn more about women’s medicine so that patients consulting male trainees are not disadvantaged.

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