‘It’s a hard slog being a female GP’: turnover intentions of Australian female general practitioners

Susan Mayson, E A Bardoel, G Russell, J Advocat, Margaret Kay

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


General medical practice is an increasingly feminized profession as more young women move into general practice, seeing it as an attractive career option within the medical profession (Brooks et al., 2003; LeFevre, et al., 2010). However, there continues to be predicted shortages of general practitioners (GPs) (Brett et al., 2009). In Australia, while women are entering general practice in greater numbers, there is recent evidence of unintended turnover, particularly among young female general practitioners (Bardoel, et al., 2016). Analysis of data drawn from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey shows that while commonly identified factors such as maternity, child care and long hours impact women's participation in general practice, the reasons for turnover is complex and requires a more fine-grained analysis of female GPs' working experiences and decision to move out of general practice (Bardoel et al., 2016). Understanding the causes of turnover of medical practitioners is crucially important due to high costs of training and recruiting GPs and the social and economic costs of an under-staffed direct care health system (Geffen, 2014). This paper reports on a study designed to identify individual and workplace factors implicated in GP turnover by capturing the 'lived experience' of female doctors working in general practice in Australia. Reporting on analysis of interviews conducted with a sample of female general practitioners (n=24) and drawing on literature on the 'gendered organization' (Acker, 1990; West and Zimmerman, 1989) and the concept of embodied work (Acker, 1990; Tyler and Cohen, 2010) our paper explores the ways in which gendered organizational processes, particularly the arrangement and use of time (Bailey and Madden, 2017) and gendered occupational identities shape doctors' work satisfaction and intentions to leave general practice. We find that female medical practitioners experience feelings of burnout and stress that arises from the temporal ordering of work (time to do medicine within timed consultation slots, time demanded by patients, time spent worrying about patients after consulting times) in general practice and which impacts their self-identity as caring doctors. This is particularly the case for young GPs. A gendered division of labour exists in general practices that exploits GPs' 'caring' role while at the same time the time bound nature of their work reduces their earnings, exacerbating their dissatisfaction with general practice. Dissatisfaction with general practice leads to personal distress and for many, the decision to remove themselves from clinical practice, and in some cases, to leaving medicine entirely. By exploring the impact of gender on female medical professionals, this work contributes to the ongoing project of bringing to light underlying gendered organizational structures that continue to occlude gendered power relations that create gendered employment outcomes amongst highly educated and seemingly powerful professional women. 

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
EventWork Employment and Society Conference 2018: Putting Sociology to Work: Interdisciplinarity, intersectionality and imagination - Europa Hotel, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sept 201814 Sept 2018


ConferenceWork Employment and Society Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleWES 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • general practitioners
  • professional work
  • gender
  • work life balance

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