Being a woman in medicine is not as difficult today as it was for our predecessors, but I'd venture to say that we still haven't gained true equality. My medical school class was the first class in school history to have an equal number of male and female students. The classes that followed ours actually were weighted in favor of more women than men. Yet, as I roam the halls of my hospital, I am acutely aware of how much of a "boy's club" still exists. There are small reminders in the physician's lounge areas of the surgical suites. The lounge attached to the female locker room is the "nurse's lounge." The lounge attached to the male locker room is the "doctor's lounge." In the hospital's general "doctor's lounge" there is a single restroom, in which the toilet seat is always left up.
In the operating room, invariably, it is my rooms that get the fresh new scrub techs that don't know a Kelly from a Heaney clamp, because they don't want to tick the male doctors off. My rooms also tend to run farther behind, "because (I) don't throw a fit." I'm sorry, since when was "throwing a fit" acceptable professional behavior? It happens more often than it should.
The reminders extend to the floor, as I round on my patients. At times I have to search high and low just to find the nurse that is taking care of my patient. I see my male colleagues, without lifting a finger, get a nurse to round with them. No kidding, these nurses, with whom I have a very good rapport and professional relationship, will snap to attention, grab the physician's charts, and follow them on rounds writing verbal orders as they go. Boggles the mind. I am friendly with the nurses, but in high stress times, I tend to bark orders just like any other physician. I have been called out for being "too harsh" in certain circumstances, and made to sit down with the nurse in question to apologize. I tread very carefully in my tone of voice, in order to not be misconstrued. In contrast, there was an incident in which a male physician grabbed a nurse and *shook* her because she did not complete an order that he requested (in the best interest of the patient.) Today that doctor and that nurse were laughing and joking together like it never happened. I have to wonder if I would even be working if I had dared pull such a stunt.
In the office, the fun continues, as my front office staff gives me hell for cancelling patients for a delivery, but will turn around in a heartbeat and croon "Aw, poor OtherDoc (my male colleague) has to go for a delivery. Of course we'll take care of it!" When the office orders lunch, they serve it to him in his office! You know, because he has "important doctor stuff to do!" Not to mention the varied and sundry insults that seem to happen on a daily basis. Patients that call me "sweetie" instead of *Dr.* Whoo or refer to me as "that nurse right there." Office patients that insist on calling me by my first name (which I never gave to them). The visitors that come up to me at the desk while I am working on charts to ask me to go fetch them some ice. This never happens to my male colleagues. It just doesn't.
We've all covered, in detail, how the difficulties extend into our home lives as we struggle to wear the mother, wife, and physician hats simultaneously. Women in medicine may have come a long way (baby), but from where I stand, we are the Thursday's children of medicine. We have far to go.