SO YOU'RE A NURSE, THEN? OH.

This happens all too often.
  1. Let me preface this by saying I have SO much respect for nurses. My mom was one. The vast majority of nurses I work with excel at their jobs and happen to also be wonderful people and friends. This is not a rant about nurses.
  2. But, even with a blaring, red plastic tag that says "DOCTOR" on my chest & me saying, "Hello, I'm Dr. Moghul," sometimes people (mostly men) still seem to think I'm a nurse.
  3. I have spent 30 minutes discussing problems, examining patients, giving them my impression, coming up with a plan, prescribing their medications, discussing end of life care, hospice, advanced directives, X-ray/lab/CT/MRI results and more, to have some of my (mostly white male) patients said, "So, is the doctor going to see me now?"
  4. Another favorite: when I lead a team of residents (me being the attending, supervising physician for 2-3 male and female residents) on bedside rounds, introduce myself to the patient as supervising doctor, teach them in front of the patient, and have them look to the least experienced person on the team (the only male) for their recommendations.
  5. I could go on about similar scenarios all day.
  6. This weekend, my friend Marissa and I went hiking with a local hiking club.
    She is a super cool chick (still trying to get her to join this app). She also happens to have a doctorate, hers being in psychology. Sidenote, she was a competitive aerial skier and was on the U.S. ski team! Basically, she's an amazing, badass woman.
  7. We were chatting about her job as an applied psychologist.
  8. She advises the VA on communication errors in the workplace, how they relate to physician burnout, and how that translates to patient safety problems.
  9. I found the topic fascinating and offered up some anecdotes from work that echoed her observations.
  10. I spoke specifically about how the responsibilities for physicians were increasing rapidly without regards to burnout and how I worried about the sustainability of my profession and the ability to safely deliver high quality patient care.
  11. As we were chatting, I noticed this maybe late 30s/early 40s white male near us who happens to be listening in.
    Perhaps I should point out that I am a minority (half Indian/half Pakistani), who appears racially ambiguous and/or confusing to some. People never seem to sure of where I am from by looking at me. I am often mistaken for being Latina or Persian. Marissa is white. This may be completely irrelevant but I don't think it is.
  12. The three of us, and another older 50s-ish Japanese-Hawaiian woman who was hiking with us, paused for a short break at the halfway point.
  13. He took that as an opportunity to finally talk. He turned to me and said, "So, you're a nurse then."
  14. It wasn't a question. It was presented as fact. It was delivered with a knowing smile, and a look of conviction.
    That that was the absolute truth. That there was no way I did anything else. Because I was a female. Maybe because I was of an ambiguous ethnicity. And because I worked in healthcare. That recipe produced a nurse in his mind.
  15. It really disturbed me that, to him, there was no way I could be anything else.
  16. Let me take a second to point out here that >50% of matriculating medical students are women (the percentage tipped over to mostly women about 7 years ago).
  17. And about half of the nurses I work with are men.
    Maybe my stats are skewed because the military has more males than females. Perhaps my civilian counterparts can weigh in.
  18. So, after the very brief initial surprise, and taking the calming mental breath I needed to decide on my wording, tone, and body language so as to not come across as a giant, defensive (read: threatening) bitch, I said with the most genuine, friendliest smile I could muster:
  19. "I'm a family physician."
  20. And then my friend Marissa excitedly offered up, "and she's a Captain in the Army!"
  21. For a second I was mad at myself. Why was I trying to be nice to this guy? Why did I feel the need to smile, and not act surprised or offended? Those feelings are justified, God damn it.
    I also noticed that I tend to use the word "physician" instead of "doctor," because it's easier to digest than "doctor." It's like a dirty word I can only muster when I'm angry or very upset, or among people I know won't hate on me for it. Fuck it, from now on I'm saying "I'm a doctor" when people ask me what I do.
  22. And you know what he did? He did the worst thing he could've done.
  23. He raised his eyebrows (in a not good way), and said, "Oh."
    With a look of... Disinterest? Disappointment? Annoyance? It definitely wasn't good, whatever it was.
  24. And then, he sharply turned and walked away.
  25. My friend Marissa and I gave each other a knowing glance. The other woman hiking with us was flabbergasted, and then very quickly evolved to being annoyed.
  26. None of us said a word at first.
    We didn't have to.
  27. But, I know we were all thinking the same thing.
    Not *this* shit, again. 🙄
  28. This constant assuming, this strict adherence to antiquated gender patterns, this insecurity/threatened feeling that some males have when we don't fit the mental mold they created for us, this lack of interest in successful women, this sexualization and romanticization of the roles men feel women SHOULD have in society and culture. IT'S BULLSHIT.
  29. And then, after a very pregnant pause, our new female acquaintance slapped me on the arm and said almost too enthusiastically, as if she was trying to make up for his douchetastic behavior, "Good for you! That is AWESOME!"
  30. She waited another second, sighed, and then added on, "Fuck that guy. Us girls gotta stick together."
  31. Yeah, us girls (and the secure men who love us) do "gotta stick together."
  32. Yeah, fuck that guy.