How to Support and Empower Women in Medicine

Tiffany Hackett

Tiffany Hackett , MD, MBA

Director of Leadership Development

Published September 12, 2019

Team of women doctors and nurses in front of ER entrance

Updated on 9/11/19 to include 2019 Vituity Women in Medicine programs.

While each woman physician and advanced provider experiences the practice of medicine uniquely, we also share many of the same struggles as all modern-day healthcare providers.

Many women I talk with find it difficult to advance in the medical field, where women hold only 20% of leadership positions. Despite the recent "New York Times" article, I have yet to meet the woman who has mastered the challenge of balancing her medical career and home life with complete confidence. And how many of us regularly carve out a block of personal time each week?

Rather than cope with these issues alone, a few years ago, I got together with a small group of Vituity providers to discuss creating a collective voice for women at Vituity that would:

  • Provide leadership and networking skills.
  • Improve confidence in the workplace.
  • Help us climb the promotion ladder.
  • Strengthen our interpersonal connections and voices.

Vituity is an organization committed to supporting provider wellness and leadership. These values were exemplified when we received enthusiastic support from executive leadership to create the Vituity Women in Medicine (VWIM) work group in 2014. Within a year, we hosted our first VWIM forum at our annual conference. Of the 120 participants, 12 of them were men. Not all women’s issues affect only women!

Growing the Community

The dynamic discussions we enjoyed at our VWIM forum pointed to the need for a tool to maintain connections and provide support between annual events. We found that tool in Vituity Community, our online forum for Vituity physician Partners and employees.

In 2016, we launched a pilot VWIM web page within our online Vituity Community. Within four months, the number of users had more than doubled. Over the past few years, we have regularly posted new content to the VWIM page that addresses key issues and fosters conversation. Examples include:

  • A white paper titled, “Having a Baby in Vituity,” designed to make it easier for medical directors, site leads, pregnant providers, and future co-parents (including dads and nonpregnant moms) to have early and open conversations about the challenges during this exciting time.
  • A guide to flexible scheduling best practices developed in collaboration with Vituity's Joy in Medicine Vituity strives to keep all of our practice sites 110% staffed in order to promote work-life balance. This guide offers practical tips that medical directors and schedulers can use to meet this goal while also fulfilling our responsibilities to our hospital partners and patients.
  • A handout on pathways to leadership at Vituity. One of the most common pain points we hear from women providers is that they just don't know how to take that first step onto the leadership ladder. So we created a document outlining the many leadership roles available at Vituity plus the leadership development programs and resources we offer.
  • Posts that share best practices and provide life hacks, such as how to be the best CEO of your household and what calendar apps to use to keep organized.

The Future of VWIM

Today, our VWIM work group meets three times a year to develop programs that engage and support women throughout the organization. This year, we are focusing on:

  • Expanding leadership development opportunities.
  • Creating community, using both live events and online spaces.
  • Raising awareness of VWIM resources and initiatives across the organization.

In order to raise VWIM's visibility, our work group members plan to act as ambassadors to both Vituity leadership and their local practice sites. We are currently creating talking points we can use to share VWIM's message and solicit feedback and suggestions from our colleagues. In addition, we hope to integrate VWIM into Vituity's various leadership development programs.

We are also finalizing plans for Elevate 2019, VWIM's live event at Vituity's annual conference. Elevate brings together physicians, advanced providers, and support staff of all genders to celebrate diversity and build community. This year, Vituity board members and regional leaders will compete in a "Jeopardy, Medicine, and Gender" quiz bowl. We're looking forward to cheering them on while raising awareness about gender inclusivity in medicine.

We hosted our third annual VWIM Leadership Development Seminar in February 2019. This year's focus was on communicating influence. Participants received coaching from Decker Communications to help them start and guide conversations in ways that effect change. The skills they learned should help them to climb the leadership ladder and launch new programs at their practice sites.

We hope that as more women become involved with VWIM, and new providers join Vituity, they will find a welcome place in our VWIM community to share information, exchange expertise, and provide resources.

I feel fortunate that we are part of an organization that actively promotes professional growth. VWIM is just one of a range of leadership development programs, including administrative fellowships in emergency medicine, hospital medicine, and anesthesiology, and our PA fellowship in emergency medicine, that gives providers the tools they need to advance professionally.

Visit us at #ACEP19 to get tips, inspiration, and heartfelt conversation on leadership and medicine.

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