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Perceptions of final-year medical students towards the impact of gender on their training and future practice

Authors Van Wyk J, Naidoo S, Moodley K, Higgins-Opitz S

Received 27 February 2016

Accepted for publication 10 April 2016

Published 23 September 2016 Volume 2016:7 Pages 541—550


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Shakila Srikumar

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anwarul Azim Majumder

Jacqueline M Van Wyk,1 Soornarain S Naidoo,2 Kogie Moodley,1 Susan B Higgins-Opitz3

1Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu‑Natal, 2Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology, 3School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu‑Natal, Durban, South Africa

Introduction: Following policy implementations to redress previous racial and gender discrepancies, this study explored how gender impacted on the clinical experiences of final-year medical students during their undergraduate training. It also gathered their perceptions and expectations for the future.
Methods: This cross-sectional, mixed-method study used a purposive sampling method to collect data from the participants (n=94). Each respondent was interviewed by two members of the research team. The quantitative data were entered into Excel and analyzed descriptively. The qualitative data were transcribed and thematically analyzed.
Results: The majority of the respondents still perceived clinical practice as male dominated. All respondents agreed that females faced more obstacles in clinical practice than males. This included resistance from some patients, poor mentoring in some disciplines, and less support from hostile nurses. They feared for their personal safety and experienced gender-based stereotyping regarding their competency. Males thought that feminization of the profession may limit their residency choices, and they reported obstacles when conducting intimate examinations and consultations on female patients. Both males and females expressed desire for more normalized work hours to maintain personal relationships.
Conclusion: Social redress policies have done much to increase equal access for females to medical schools. Cultural values and attitudes from mentors, peers, and patients still impact on the quality of their clinical experiences and therefore also their decisions regarding future clinical practice. More mentoring and education may help to address some of the perceived obstacles.

Keywords: South Africa, opportunities, challenges, stigma, racial stereotypes, students

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