Belonging to a patriarchal male dominated Indian society, I dared to step into a field of medicine where a female doctor is looked upon as an absolute misfit. I hail from the state of Punjab, where the usual addressing to a female doctor is that of “sister” (the word denoting nurse), hence awarding the precious pre-fix of “Dr.” exclusively to the male counterparts. The journey of becoming an ER Physician begun with my 3 years of training in Emergency Medicine in a tertiary care hospital in New Delhi. Having finished residency training, I returned to my home state to begin with the real challenges of practicing as an independent Emergency Physician in the new job.
This ride turned into a taxing one as I delivered twin sons and faced a long draining battle of legal separation with my husband. With no extended sympathy benefits, I successfully cleared the MRCEM(RCEM-UK) exams in my first attempt along with working and arduous court visits. The relentless support rendered by my parents in raising the twin boys stands preciously indebted with in my life. Taking the bold step of dissociating from an unworthy marriage was not only condemned by the society but was also topped with endless expert judgements at job sphere.
Being young, petite, short heighted and fair complexioned, I was welcomed by the previously existing colleagues and hospital administrators with a harsh quote; “Oh, why did you join ER? That’s a place for male doctors. Females do not work in such highly volatile and tough zones!” Used to the gender bias in our country, I smiled and took this with a pinch of salt amongst the countless other taunts and opinions.
Not having grey hair and being a woman, became a crime at the workplace. There was a painful initial distrust and absence of acknowledgment from the cross specialties during communication regarding patients’ clinical details. An additional reinforcement/second talk with the “male” doctor on duty was sought by the consultants. However, I kept perseverance and persistence. Detailed patient assessment, crisp EKG interpretations, identification and correction of acid-base disorders swiftly in ED, timely resuscitations, difficult intubations, central line insertions, excellent documentation and sincere effort to gel with the existing old male medical officers started bearing its fruits. However, this was just the beginning, hurdles were manifold. As we all know, or don’t we? The mountainous male EGO – often the root cause of disastrous self assumptions, pent up frustrations, anger, annoyance and a baseless global dislike towards the female counterparts, not to forget dangerous one-sided love obsessions especially targeted towards the “single woman” group!
Besides proving my worth clinically, I had to cater to the careful art of handling this bane of male ego! Not surprisingly, I face the same from male nurses and ground duty assistants, who recognize and abide by all pleasant/unpleasant orders, reprimanding and pampering benefits coming from male colleagues but looked down upon and even amounting to resistance when it stems from me. There seems to be an ongoing chorus in the background in the form of regular opting for or searching for a male doctor in the ED by the patients and attendants, with complete conviction that the female in blue scrubs must be a nurse or assistant or junior doctor. Staring, commenting upon self declared competency skills and teasing are the only icings on the cake in a society which dwells on the age old conception that a woman is designed to cook in kitchen and bear children and it is the male who will earn the bread and get exposed to the outer world.
My gradual transformation into a mature, patient and tough EP has made me the In-charge of the busiest ED of a tertiary care hospital of the region. Male doctors, quite senior to me by age, but lacking adequate specialist degrees in emergency medicine report to me and I enjoy a great camaraderie with them, obviously admixed with few jealous souls. The best attitude change which I gifted myself has been the technique of IGNORANCE (being updated and aware of everything but filtration and ignorance for un-necessary inputs).
As I talk of ignorance, this might seem to be a little word, but it does carry a huge in-depth impact on my day to day life and functioning in the society. I have gradually begun the art of conscious percolation of numerous comments, advices and discouraging taunts coming to me. This pertains to both personal and professional lives. Being at a senior level in a branch which has not yet been very well accepted and developed in India compared to the west, a continuous amount of non-sense administrative issues erupt on a daily basis. This not only distracts you from your useful clinical output on floors, but also tends to drain you mentally. However, ignoring the same has helped me to deliver more efficiently on floor and focus intensely on fruitful endeavors. The entire package of a regressive thinking with respect to women in the Indian society, coupled with a divorced status and leading a department in a peripheral area for a novice specialty, walks with me hand in hand now. But to be able to deliver my best, progress, do justice to my roles (personally and professionally), I have chosen the fine art of maintaining calm and moving ahead on my dream path with perseverance. Complete trust in my being, focused hard work and a conviction towards “No Demotivation” has kept my identity intact. As penned down by Robert Frost, “And miles to go before I sleep…!”