One of our preceptors asked a group of fourth year students, shortly before graduation, to rate how prepared we felt to be doctors, on a scale of 1-10.

All the men in the group responded in the range of 7-9, while the women answered, 4-6. All of the guys expressed a fair amount of confidence, while the women sounded much more hesitant, doubtful, and concerned.

I’m not sure what conclusion to draw, especially from this small sample. It doesn’t reflect competency, because I respect all of the students in that group, and in fact I would pick one of the other women as the new intern whose patient I would most like to be (if I absolutely had to pick an intern!). I don’t think it reflects intimidation, because the school is very friendly to women (even more than they should be, I think), and our class has always interacted with complete equality.

So it probably comes down to an underlying difference in personalities between genders, fitting the old model of men being more aggressive and happier to take risks, women looking more for security and certainty. How that will affect our patients, I don’t know. I think we have enough training that we’ll all be able to learn to make quick decisions when they’re needed.