The number of people in medical assistants’ jobs has more than doubled in the last 20 years, according to research by University of California, Davis, researchers.
The report, published in the journal Science, shows that the number of medical assistants working full-time has more or less doubled in recent years.
Researchers from the UC Davis Health Science Center found that the overall number of full-timers working in the medical field increased by more than 3.5 per cent per year over the past decade.
But there were several key differences between those in the top half and the bottom half.
The researchers found that only 13 per cent of the full-timer workers in the health science industry were women, compared with 27 per cent in the general population.
The top half of the workforce also comprised more people aged over 65.
But, researchers say, the overall gender gap is narrowing.
And the gap is starting to close.
The proportion of full time workers in medical occupations has more to do with changes in demographics and the shift in occupations from teaching and nursing to other areas of health care, the researchers say.
The gender gap was largest among workers who did not have children, which had an increase of almost 1.8 per cent over the decade, the study says.
“Although there is still a great deal of work to be done to close the gender gap in medicine, we now have a much better understanding of what is behind the increase,” said lead author Jie Zhang, a researcher at UC Davis.
“As we move forward in the field, we hope that we can make the transition more easily and at a faster pace.”
The authors say the report shows that women in medical assistant jobs should consider careers in health and safety and that more training is needed for both men and women.
“We believe that more education, in particular in the sciences, will help women to succeed in their careers in medical administration and to make the most of their professional careers,” they write.
“More training in health sciences and related disciplines is needed to ensure that we are investing in our workforce with a high degree of care and safety.”
The researchers note that the gap has widened in recent decades.
“The gender gap increased substantially between 1979 and 2007 and decreased from 2008 to 2010,” they wrote.
“Between 2009 and 2010, the proportion of women in the workforce was nearly double that of men, with the gap continuing to grow as the number and composition of medical personnel increased,” they said.
“Over the same time period, the gender of medical assistant positions increased from about 18 per cent to 35 per cent.”
The report suggests that there may be reasons for this, including the fact that in many countries, women tend to have fewer children and fewer years of education, which is a factor that could be affecting the gender composition of the medical workforce.
The authors suggest that we need to ensure better training and greater job placement for female doctors and nurses, as well as to encourage women to consider careers as healthcare assistants.
Dr Zhang said that the report is a welcome reminder that healthcare is a career.
“If we want to have a better workforce, we need more healthcare professionals,” she said.