This post is inspired by an event from today, and one of those stories I just want to get off my mind by putting it to paper. Or, to blog.
I am a PACU nurse, meaning I prep and recover patients having sedation and anesthesia during procedures and surgeries.
This morning, I was at the hospital for a case. Here in the Midwest, we are just nearing the end of some long, drawn out, particularly brutal winter weather. Subzero temperatures for several days, coupled with snow and ice, has brought in a surge of slip-and-fall fractures requiring orthopedic surgery.
As we were wrapping up our case today, another case was brought across the desk of our on-call orthopedic surgeon. It was very complex, requiring very specialized treatment. Treatment that was outside the typical practice of a general orthopedist.
This surgeon happens to be female. The only female orthopedic surgeon in a large practice here in our area. She initiated the process of transferring this patient to the trauma center within our health system, where the specialized orthopedic services required would be available.
Look. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but we were literally sitting back to back in the small nursing station, and her call was on speaker.
As the transfer team got her connected with the receiving *male* surgeon, I overheard a conversation that shed light on a gender inequality that still very much exists.
“Who did you say you were again? I’m not familiar with you. Are you an actual surgeon? Or are you like, the mid-level.”
When she was finished with the call, I cut in – listen, it may be none of my business, but how often do you feel you’re treated differently because you’re a female orthopedic surgeon?
All. The. Time. was her response.
She shared a few stories of patients requesting second opinions after learning she’d be their surgeon. Of going through entire assessments and plans of care with patients and their family members, only to have someone say – ‘oh, YOU will be the one doing the surgery?’
She told me about a recent encounter where she was visiting with a patient regarding their planned surgery, when the nurse walked in and said, ‘Sorry, who are you? Are you a student?’
I said to her, first and foremost – I’m sorry. How frustrating to have worked so hard, completed so much schooling, so much training, found your dream career, only to find yourself constantly questioned about your abilities and your skill, about your worthiness within your field.. because of being female. Always assumed to be the nurse, the mid level, a student.. surely never the actual surgeon. In freaking 2021.
She replied, ‘It’s okay. It’s just part of the job.’
Okay hold up. Stop right there, flip that and reverse it. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. It isn’t, nor should it be.
This doc, she’s a superstar. So skilled both in the OR and at the bedside. Kind and competent. The real deal. And just, settled into the fact that she may always have to assure people – colleagues and patients alike – that yes, you actually can be a bone bossbabe. Hashtag.
Come on everyone, it’s 2021. I’m hoping we can all start to do better, be wiser, think broader, speak kinder.