I love my job. I feel like my work is meaningful, my hospitals provide a very high level of care, the patients are complicated, and I enjoy my colleagues. My training is extensive. My undergraduate degree was in Women’s Studies, but I ultimately went to medical school. I did three years of residency in general surgery, then a residency in anesthesiology as well as a mini-fellowship in regional anesthesiology.
So, when I visit a patient in PACU after they wake up pain-free due to my nerve block, nausea-free due my anesthetic, alert and comfortable, and they ask to see the doctor, it stings. Patients seem to think they are making a novel joke when they say they are surrounded by pretty ladies in pre-op, but really, you’re surrounded by highly trained professionals whose looks matter not at all.
My good friend has been mistaken for everything but a doctor, including someone who must be just coming from her karate class. Because of the unfathomability that she may be a doctor in scrubs. My Y chromosome-bearing resident who has been training in anesthesiology for mere months is viewed as a default authority while I am called by my first name, girl, Miss, or Nurse on the daily.
I am an extroverted and friendly person, but I am done with people telling me to smile more when I am thinking. Dude, I am just walking down the hallway, please don’t tell me to smile more because I will look prettier. This casual instruction of what to do with my actual face, so you can find it more appealing to look at is fundamentally crazy-making.
I heard a story about a drug rep that was hosting a lunch and when a doctor tried to sign in, she was told not to use the physician sign-in sheet. Ruh-roh! Awkward. She told the rep that perhaps it would be better to assume all women were doctors at their luncheons, rather than assume no women were. Considering we are 50% of all medical students now, this seems only fair. And, dare I say, a more successful sales pitch.
Much of the low-hanging fruit of sexism is picked now. What remains is much more commonly, the “death by a thousand cuts” variety. Women are slowly gaining ground, but we are often left to clean up, be maternal to people whose mothers we are not, and to field touchy-feely administrative roles rather than high prestige and reward positions. Changing all of these things will take a long time and a multifaceted approach, both on the individual as well as institutional level.
But, while we are working and waiting please, Bruh, call me Doctor.