By Agnes Rose
Female doctors in private healthcare must be better supported through the menopause and feel empowered to take time off to help prevent them leaving the medical profession.
This is the conclusion of a survey of 39 female consultants who do private work, which found that few felt supported by their workplace.
Most did not know where to seek support for their symptoms at work and some said they had considered early retirement due to menopause symptoms and the impact on their well-being.
Survey organisers the Medical Protection Society (MPS) believe those suffering with menopause symptoms would benefit from supportive colleagues and managers who remove barriers to doctors taking time off at short notice.
Prof Dame Jane Dacre
MPS president Prof Dame Jane Dacre said female doctors who were working in private healthcare were suffering in silence and required more support.
‘Brain fog, forgetfulness, poor concentration and insomnia can make any job difficult, but particularly so in a complex environment like healthcare.
‘Some female private practitioners also report feeling concerned about their symptoms impacting on their performance, on colleagues’ perceptions of their capability or resulting in medico-legal issues. This causes additional stress.’
Results of the survey of 261 doctors working across different healthcare settings in the UK showed similar concerns.
Prof Dacre called for a shift to a culture which frames doctors’ sick leave as responsible behaviour. This would help female doctors suffering with menopause symptoms continue to perform at their best and thrive longer in their careers.
‘If we do not destigmatise menopause, we may lose many skilled and passionate doctors during a time when the medical profession can ill-afford it.’
What female private doctors say:
‘I could hardly function and knew my decision-making was impaired. As retirement age increases, post-menopausal women need support.’
‘The only matter where a woman can take time off for her reproductive health that is widely accepted is pregnancy – that’s the reality.’
‘I know my clinical performance suffered due to brain fog, but it has now improved again.’
‘I am surprised at times how unsympathetic female colleagues are who are slightly younger than me but have not yet experienced symptoms. I have found much younger colleagues to me more understanding.’
75% of female consultants who have experienced menopause are concerned about their menopause symptoms impacting their work/performance quality.
62% of female consultants who have experienced menopause said they are concerned about menopause symptoms impacting colleagues’ perception of themselves and their capability.
55% of female consultants who have experienced menopause are concerned about the impact of menopause symptoms resulting in medico-legal issues such as clinical negligence claim, GMC investigation into their practice, disciplinary, involvement in inquest and/or patient complaint.
68% of all consultants surveyed do not know whether their employer/workplace has a menopause workplace
48% of female consultants who have experienced menopause have considered reducing their hours, 22% have considered early retirement, and 18% have considered stepping back from clinical work to pursue other medical-related projects/jobs.