Background: Women make up 78.7% of the workforce in healthcare and healthcare-associated fields; further, nearly a third of practicing physicians and surgeons and roughly half of all medical students are women. Whether they are physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, interprofessional staff members, students, patients or visitors, healthcare facilities have opportunities to improve gender equity.
When spending considerable amounts of time in a hospital setting, women visitors and staff will have biological needs such as using a restroom as well as accessing menstrual hygiene products. Also, women with children may need an infant changing station that is both safe and sanitary and access a private, secure room for pumping breastmilk. However, these facilities and resources are often forgotten. When unavailable, it can be a nuisance and worse, a hindrance to women working in the medical field and users of the healthcare system.
Methods: An inspection was performed on every floor of a large academic hospital and evaluated for available, public resources and ease of access on a weekday during business hours. Restrooms were considered accessible if it did not require badge access and were not in a patient’s room. Upon entering the restroom, it was noted if the restroom had a diaper changing station, sanitary napkin/tampon dispenser, and/or if the restroom was a family/non-gender specific restroom. The availability of a lactation station was also noted.
Results: In three buildings with a total of 17 clinical areas of a hospital with 550 beds, 14 female restrooms did not require badge access on a weekday. Of those 14 restrooms, ten were inaccessible on weekends after 5 PM, requiring a badge to access. None had tampon/sanitary napkin dispensers, and 5 of 14 had diaper changing tables. One lactation room was found, and it required badge access to use.
Conclusions: In this large academic hospital, there is limited access to resources for women’s personal care needs, seen by the limited resources available in public restrooms and the limited availability of lactation rooms for both female employees and patients. Small measures can be considered and implemented to improve the experience of women visitors and staff. Adding a sanitary napkin/tampon dispenser in every public restroom, increasing the amount of diaper changing stations, expanding the availability of family restrooms and lactation stations are tangible interventions to promote gender equity.