Inequality in Healhtcare: A Female Doctor’s Struggle to Be Seen As A Physician
People can really test your patience sometimes. Especially when you’re a female doctor…or any other female professional. Society makes assumptions about us based on our looks, our clothing, the car we drive, and the gender we claim.
As the world has evolved, so have gender roles. More women are entering the professional arena; in fact, there are more female medical students now than there are male medical students. As the world evolves, so should our stereotypes. Yet, we female doctors, and female professionals in general, run into issues.
Let me explain:
Things I’ve Heard Since Entering Residency:
When I’m speaking to the patient, they interrupt:
“you’re too young to be a doctor.”
“how old are you??”
“How long have you been doing this?
“You look like a high school student”
The Facial Expressions:
“do you really know what you’re doing” looks
“Did you really go to medical school”
“I was waiting for a tall, old white guy to come talk to me”
oh, YOU’RE doing it? I thought you were my nurse.” (despite introducing myself as “doctor”)
“I love your eyebrows”
“You have such pretty eyes”
The Random Comments:
“You’re so petite”
“You have really small hands, how do you work with them”
Yes, I’m Female, and Not Just That, I’m a Doctor
It’s amazing how people don’t even listen to what you say. Rather, they solely rely on what they are seeing. While there is nothing wrong with being a nurse (shout out to my nursing friends and colleagues, you’re awesome), it’s incredibly frustrating to have gone through medical school and residency training only to have your work reduced to that of someone else–just because you’re female.
Just like our male colleagues, we have studied countless hours, worked insane overnight shifts, and handled crazy patients. We have definitely EARNED our title as doctors. Sadly, despite societal progress, we are still seen through the telescope of traditionally female roles. I’ll introduce myself as “doctor,” but no one hears that. They see “woman” and assume I occupy a different role.
Part of the problem is that attending physicians are seen as being in a position of leadership and power, and leadership roles have traditionally belonged to men.
Shifting this norm is an uphill battle.
What Can We Do In The Meantime?
Stay confident in your abilities, ladies, and let that shine through so that that’s the first thing your patients notice. Keep doing what you know is right for your patients and their health. Recognize that their comments are not a reflection of your abilities but a reflection of societal norms.
While you can’t change someone’s mind in a snap, you are already changing the norm. As a female doctor and professional, you’re already making a difference.