Women medical students feel less confident than men and suffer from increased anxiety over matters bearing on self-competence, according to a new study.
"We observed third-year medical students interacting with individuals posing as patients and gave the students a battery of tests measuring non-verbal sensitivity," said the study's co-author Richard M Frankel, professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
"Despite performance that is equal to or greater than their male classmates there was something about the way in which female students were observed and experienced their communication with patients that made them less confident," said Frankel.
Observing female medical students and finding that they actually appeared less confident in their interaction with patients than male counterparts answered the important question of whether women were simply more willing than men to admit that they are feeling anxious, stressed or that they lack confidence in their abilities.
Women now comprise more than half of the applicants to medical schools in the US but medical educators may not be aware of gender differences in their student population, the study authors noted, according to an Indiana University release.
The findings were published in the September issue of Patient Education and Counseling.
"Our finding of decreased confidence among female medical students is important because it makes it very clear that somewhere in the training of future physicians, the issue of confidence needs to be addressed."
The survey also found that by the end of medical school, male students had achieved a greater level of identification with the role of doctor than female students with the same medical school experience.