5 Tips for Medical Practitioners to Empower Women Patients

As medical practitioners, we often forget that within the consultation room, we have an immense influence on the empowerment of the women we provide health care to. As a medical student, doing my training in the government hospitals of South Africa, I often find myself in situations where the privacy, confidentiality or even humanity of patients is exploited. Often, these working conditions are not within the control of the health care provider. We can, however, still actively aim towards creating an empowering situation for our women patients by taking the following measures:

1)Always see a woman alone: Often, husbands, fathers and brothers come into the consultation room with women.  In most cases, this is out of concern for the woman, but it might also be a way to manipulate the woman and to prevent her from disclosing information to the practitioner about her health. Always, and especially when abuse is suspected, a woman should also be given the opportunity to see a doctor alone.

2) Take care to educate her about health issues: Although this may seem as if it goes without saying, a lot of doctors in rural areas do not even try to explain a woman’s health condition to her as they feel that she will not understand the concepts, or due to a big workload or language barrier. It is vital that every woman understands her disease and is well equipped with the things that she can do in her own life to improve her health outcome.  If women are not educated about these issues, they often resort to traditional healers who give them more logical explanations.

3) Do not only discuss the issue at hand: Take care to also discuss birth control, protection against STI’s and other issues of female reproductive health at every visit to the doctor. A lot of patients trust their physician’s opinion more than that of a school educator or visitor from the department of health. She must be clear what her options are and how she can optimally take responsibility for her own health.

4) Greet her in her own language: Learn the greetings of all of the cultures in the region that you are working. Study their customs and learn what are signs of respect in your patient’s culture. If you greet a patient in their home language they immediately have a greater trust in you and will be more willing to share her own health issues with you.

5) Make the most out of every visit: A lot of women are the sole providers for their families. They cannot afford to take another day off (a lot of the women we see work in the informal sector) to come back to hear results or to get another test done. A lot of them also do not have enough money for transport to and from the hospital. Do as much as you can in one visit, optimise her medication to last the whole month and empower her with knowledge to take certain actions when certain things happen.

Women trust their health care providers. It is up to us not to abuse that trust and to use every opportunity to empower these women. 

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  • Snezana Zivcevska-Stalpers
    Clarindi, thank you for sharing! I am not a medical prctitioner but these are definitely very valuable and empowering tips.
  • Maria Pedro Miala
    I am a nurse, thank you.
  • Olga Rajchikj
    Hi Clarindi,

    I am not a medical practitioner but these are very good tips. Thank you for sharing this and I hope it is an inspiration for many young medical practitioners! 
    • Clarindi Greeff
      Hi Olga,

      Thank you for your kind comments! I have enjoyed the links that you posted as discussion from www.idea.int


      Thank you for them!
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Moreangels Mbizah
    Hi Clarindi,

    I am not a medical practitioner but I think these are very good tips. What do you think about women being examined by a female doctor or female nurse when it comes to issues like private parts and labour. 
    • Clarindi Greeff
      Hi Moreangels,

      Thank you for your kind comments! I hope that perhaps somewhere this helps someone and that we get to positively change our society and help our female medical practitioners.
    1 of 1 Replies
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