Purpose: Ineffective leadership during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“code”) can negatively affect a patient’s likelihood of survival. In most teaching hospitals, internal medicine residents lead codes. In this study, the authors explored internal medicine residents’ experiences leading codes, with a particular focus on how gender influences the code leadership experience.
Method: The authors conducted individual, semistructured telephone or in-person interviews with 25 residents (May 2012 to February 2013) from 9 U.S. internal medicine residency programs. They audio recorded and transcribed the interviews and then thematically analyzed the transcribed text.
Results: Participants viewed a successful code as one with effective leadership. They agreed that the ideal code leader was an authoritative presence; spoke with a deep, loud voice; used clear, direct communication; and appeared calm. Although equally able to lead codes as their male colleagues, female participants described feeling stress from having to violate gender behavioral norms in the role of code leader. In response, some female participants adopted rituals to signal the suspension of gender norms while leading a code. Others apologized afterwards for their counternormative behavior.
Conclusions: Ideal code leadership embodies highly agentic, stereotypical male behaviors. Female residents employed strategies to better integrate the competing identities of code leader and female gender. In the future, residency training should acknowledge how female gender stereotypes may conflict with the behaviors required to enact code leadership and offer some strategies, such as those used by the female residents in this study, to help women integrate these dual identities.