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Open Access Research article

Comparing gender awareness in Dutch and Swedish first-year medical students - results from a questionaire

Jenny Andersson1*, Petra Verdonk2, Eva E Johansson3, Toine Lagro-Janssen4 and Katarina Hamberg3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine, Umeå University, 901 85 Umeå, Sweden and National Graduate School of Gender Studies, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden

2 VU University Medical Center, Department of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, van der Boechorsstraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine, Umeå University, 901 85 Umeå, Sweden

4 Department of Primary and Community Care, Centre for Family Medicine, Geriatric and Public Health, Unit Women's Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, P.O. Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-3

Published: 12 January 2012

Abstract

Background

To ascertain good and appropriate healthcare for both women and men implementation of gender perspectives in medical education is needed. For a successful implementation, knowledge about students' attitudes and beliefs about men, women, and gender is crucial. The aim of this study was to compare attitudes to gender and gender stereotyping among Dutch and Swedish male and female medical students.

Methods

In this cross-sectional study, we measured the attitudes and assumptions about gender among 1096 first year medical students (616 Dutch and 480 Swedish) with the validated Nijmegen Gender Awareness in Medicine Scale (N-GAMS). The response rate was 94% in the Netherlands and 93% in Sweden. Univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare the scores between Dutch and Swedish male and female students. Linear regressions were used to analyze the importance of the background variables.

Results

There were significant differences in attitudes to gender between Dutch and Swedish students. The Swedish students expressed less stereotypical thinking about patients and doctors and the Dutch were more sensitive to gender differences. The students' sex mattered for gender stereotyping, with male students in both countries agreeing more with stereotypical statements. Students' age, father's birth country and mother's education level had some impact on the outcome.

Conclusions

There are differences between cultures as well as between men and women in gender awareness that need to be considered when implementing gender in medical education.

This study suggests that to arouse the students' interest in gender issues and make them aware of the significance of gender in medical work, the examples used in discussions need to be relevant and challenging in the context of the specific country. Due to different levels of knowledge and different attitudes within the student population it is important to create a climate for dialogue where students feel permitted to disclose their ideas and attitudes in order to become aware of what these are as well as their possible consequences on interaction and decision-making in medical work.

Keywords:
Medical curricula; medical students; gender implementation; gender; attitudes; stereotypical thinking