I did not march today with the women in London protesting against President Trump with his locker room talk and pussy grabbing. Instead I was working a twelve and a half hour shift as an Emergency Medicine Specialty Doctor in the only Emergency Department in the county.
Every time I see a patient, I introduce myself and tell them quite clearly that I am their doctor. Despite this, on pretty much every single shift I work I will on multiple occasions then be called ‘nurse.’ I will have patients complain that they have not yet seen a doctor despite me having seen them, examined them, started treatment and told them their ongoing management plan. I will be told that they have already seen the doctor, referring to the male nurse who triaged them. I have been explicitly told before that men are doctors and women are nurses, had patients exclaim “so you’re a WOMAN doctor! How did that happen?” Patients refer to the consultant who saw them earlier, meaning the male doctor who is significantly my junior. And I get these comments from both men and women, of all ages. And yet there are more women than men qualifying as doctors these days, and for quite some time now.
I am not insulted in the slightest at being called a nurse, I work with amazing nurses who I would trust with my life any day. It is the presumption that I must be a nurse purely because I have breasts that I find insulting.
On the point about more women qualifying as doctors these days, I’m sure that it is still the case that there are significantly fewer female consultants than men. I will probably never be a consultant, and if I do, it will be at a significantly later age than my male contempories. I have chosen to step out of training in order to stay at one hospital so that my children can go to one school, rather than move every year, or for me to live away from home for big chunks of time to continue my training. I choose that time at home is spent with them and not studying for exams. I have huge admiration for my colleagues who continue with specialty training after children, but I am very glad I have chosen not to. I am getting a little bit bored of seeing people who were my juniors becoming consultants now and feeling they have the right to patronise me now.
I know that none of this is important in the grand fight for female rights. I know that there are much bigger worries and that I am stupendously lucky to live in a country where I got an equal education, access to studying at university, the right to chose my own husband, have my own money, have access to contraception and make family planning decisions for myself. I appreciate that greatly, and feel so lucky to be in that situation. But the fight for true equality is a long way from being over, and I am very grateful to all the women who marched today.