Understanding Gender Sensitivity of the Health Care Workforce at the Veterans Health Administration

Womens Health Issues. 2020 Mar-Apr;30(2):120-127. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2020.01.001. Epub 2020 Feb 22.


Background: Gender sensitivity of providers and staff has assumed increasing importance in closing historical gender disparities in health care quality and outcomes. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has implemented several initiatives intended to improve gender sensitivity of its health care workforce. The current study examines practice- and individual-level characteristics associated with gender sensitivity of primary care providers (PCPs) and staff.

Methods: We surveyed PCPs and staff (nurses, medical assistants, and clerks) at 12 VA medical centers (VAMCs) (n = 256 of 649; response rate, 39%). Gender sensitivity was measured using a 10-item scale adapted from the Gender Awareness Inventory-VA. We used weighted multivariate regression with maximum likelihood estimation to identify individual- and practice-level characteristics associated with gender sensitivity of PCPs and staff.

Results: PCPs and staff had similar gender sensitivity but differed in most characteristics associated with that gender sensitivity. Among PCPs, women's health training and positive communication with others in the clinic were associated with greater gender sensitivity. For staff, prior work experience caring for women, working in Women's Health Patient-Aligned Care Teams, and rural location were associated with greater gender sensitivity, whereas more years of VA service was associated with lower gender sensitivity. Working at VA medical centers with a higher volume of women veteran patients was associated with greater gender sensitivity for both PCPs and staff.

Conclusions: Women's health training and experience in working with other women's health professionals are strongly correlated with greater gender sensitivity in the clinical workforce.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Health Workforce*
  • Hospitals, Veterans / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs / organization & administration*
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Veterans Health
  • Women's Health