Sexism in Medicine: It’s about time we stop calling female doctors Auntie nurse

Ismail Akwei Apr 20, 2018 at 07:20am

April 20, 2018 at 07:20 am | Opinions & Features

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Contributor

April 20, 2018 at 07:20 am | Opinions & Features

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As the world awakens to the sexist and racist behaviours and actions against women, many victims have come forward with their experiences with the hope that people get to know that it doesn’t feel good to be discriminated against.

One field often overlooked is the medical field where women make up the majority of nurses and a few become doctors largely due to gender discrimination at various levels of the science field. [A good topic for another day]

A paper published last year in the Journal of Women’s Health on how women doctors are introduced at professional functions says male introducers use the formal title “doctor” 49.2 percent of the time when introducing female doctors while they use it 72.4 percent of the time for men.

A co-author of the paper, Dr. Julia Files, who is a physician and associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic Arizona in Scottsdale, U.S.A, was inspired to write the paper after having several gender bias experiences among fellow doctors.

“I was really quite taken aback. I thought, Did that just happen? Am I being sensitive? Is it me? Did he do that? Did he mean to do that? This wasn’t the first time I’d been inappropriately addressed by my first name in a professional setting, but it was certainly the most public and glaring example,” Files told Newsweek in an interview.

The conclusion of her paper, which she wrote with 12 others after reviewing 321 introductions made at rounds at the Arizona and Minnesota Mayo Clinic locations, was:

“Subtle, yet pervasive practices, reinforcing the perception that women are of lower status than men, can negatively impact a woman’s career trajectory and her satisfaction with her career even if they are unintentional,” they write. “Unequal naming practices may amplify the issues of isolation, marginalization, and professional discomfiture expressed by women faculty in academic medicine.”

For General Practitioner and Obstetrician Doctor Penny Wilson who is in Australia, introducing yourself as a doctor, wearing an ID badge, draping a stethoscope around your neck and wearing a uniform that has “DOCTOR” embroidered on it have not prevented the assumptions from occurring.

She wrote her experiences in a blog post:

You enter a patient’s room and they are on the phone. They end their call by saying “I gotta go, the nurse is here to see me.”

You spend 45 minutes with a patient taking a history, performing an examination, taking bloods, explaining their diagnosis and management plan. Then they say “Ok, when do I get to see the doctor?”

Having to repeatedly deflect groping hands, flirty comments and admiring looks up and down from overly friendly male patients who care more about what you look like than what your job title is.

The situation is no different in Africa as some Nigerian female doctors expressed their frustration after a tweet by Twitter user Dr Chioma who posted: “Being a Female Doctor in Nigeria can be hard mehn. You will dress up in all your Full Doctors regalia with your male colleagues and Your patients will still call you Nurse. And when they realise they are wrong, they ask for the ‘Main Doctor’. I just ask for the main patient.”

This tweet received thousands of likes and hundreds of replies from other female doctors who started a conversation as they shared their experiences.

The conversation goes on and on with young male doctors joining in to share their experiences of being called “too young”.

This clearly shows that education and enlightenment on sexist behaviours are needed and it should start from within the hospitals and medical facilities as it is evident that male doctors discriminate against female colleagues.

For the public, we need to solve the sexism from the root, which is through the children by taking the education to the classrooms which will go a long way to encourage more girls to have interest in medicine.

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