I have been wanting to write about this topic for a while. It seems that even in this day and age where women make up 50% of medical school students, there are still individuals who are shocked to hear or see that a women is a physician. At the hospital I use to work at, exactly half of the physicians were women and mostly women of color. You don’t know how empowering it is to see someone who looks like you, doing the job that you your self are striving to obtain. However, even they still faced patients who would call them nurses, techs or even a student and this is after the physician just introduced themselves as Dr. so-and-so.
Case and point. The nurse informed my physician that we had a cardiac arrest coming in 5 minutes and to get the trauma room ready. Because of the room, the patient was going into , the physician on the other zone would have typically picked up the patient, but her hands were tied dealing with a patient tyrant was having a seizure. The doctor told the nurse he’ll help out and I finished documenting some information in the chart about a previous patient we saw. Walking into the room, I settled myself in my little corner out of the way of the nurses and EMS who were in en route. This is the time I typically try to hear from the nurses any information about the patient that will help me jump start my documentation. On critical cases like this, we typically start documenting in a word document or note pad until the patient is registered and then transfer all the information into the chart. EMS arrived and were already doing chest compressions. On scene the patient was alert and oriented however while en route, their oxygen levels began to drop and the patient became tachycardia (fast heart rate). Chest compressions were started and the patient received 2 rounds of epinephrine prior to arriving in the ED.
At some point while the story was being told, the other physician who typically has the room came in and informed my doctor and the staff that she can take over. He stepped out of the room and said he place orders on the patient. Now this is the time I would also left however where I was positioned it did not allow me easy access to the door since the EMTs stretcher was blocking both me and the entrance. So I stayed behind and listened in case the other scribe needed my help with any information. By this point, the new doctor taking lead started asking questions about the patients past medical history and if the patient was a full code (do everything we can to save them) or a DNR/DNI (Do not resuscitate or Do not intubate). While listening to the answers, she reached over and grabbed the documentation that was brought in with the patient. What happened next made me literally stop typing. One of the EMT staff, a women by the way, snatched the paper from her and said those papers are for the doctor to see only.
Talk about seeing red. I could not believe that just happened. The new doctor handled it very well though, she looked at the EMT and simple said, I am the doctor. The EMT turned red in the face and said she didn’t know. Now, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I heard a little condescending tone in the EMTs voice. By this point, I looked at the physician and used her full name just load enough that the EMT could hear it and asked her if there any other order she would like me to ask my doctor to place. She smiled at me and raised an eyebrow. She new what I was doing. In my small way, I was showing the EMT that this women, black women, was the physician and team lead. All decisions go through her and I was acknowledging that by asking for further orders to have my doctor place. She said no and I left the room with my head held high.
So in honor of the amazing women physicians that I have had the pleasure of working with, thank you. Thank you for showing me that you can have the job and still find time for your family and loved ones. Thank you for showing me that you can become a department head and still be an active mom in your child’s life. And above all, thank you for showing me how to become a strong, confident, intelligent, black women physician in the future.