I’m a female, but I’m not a feminist. You’d never hear me say that being a woman is difficult. Being a woman in medicine is a different story.
How many times during a shift should I have to correct a patient for calling me ‘nurse’ when I just introduced myself as their doctor? How many times should I be mistaken for cleaning staff or a technician? How much time during my shift should I spend helping patients off of bed pans and bringing them blankets before I correct them? Does it even matter? How should I feel?
All of the years spent studying—missing birthdays, weddings, and funerals…putting my personal life on hold—to become ‘doctor’ makes me feel like it should matter.
What’s a reasonable number of times to have my authority challenged, to be doubted, to be unreasonably questioned by my patients and their families, based on my gender and appearance? To introduce myself as “Dr. Buckingham’ and in return be addressed by my first name? How does a professional woman respond to these challenges?
Won’t adversity make me stronger, more resilient? Maybe even a better clinician? Shouldn’t I just ‘suck it up’ and learn to overcome? These are core beliefs that have been engrained in me, largely by the House of medicine.
But the pit I feel in the bottom of my stomach, in knowing that my patient interactions are different than those of my male counterparts, makes me question the House and its values, as well as my own.
I am a female physician, who in the past would have cringed at being labeled a feminist.
So, how should I feel?