So my daughter hates the doctor. I can’t blame her, we had to take her to the ER three times in her first 9 months of life. She had to get a catheter the first time, so I can understand her distaste. Even when she was a newborn in the hospital, she freaked out when her temperature was taken. Still does. Screams bloody murder when when a stethoscope gets near her. Which made me quite fascinated with her apparent love of the doctor toy set at grandma’s house over the holidays. Yes, child, please play with those so you hate them less the next time we go to the doctor.
Then my mama imagination took over and I wondered what she’d want to be when she grew up. Maybe she’d go to medical school, or become a nurse, or physical therapist, or something to make up for all the hell she causes at those offices. I’ve known a lot of people who have gone to med/PT/OT/nursing/dental/etc. school, so my first thought was, “Oh kiddo, those would all suck.” After a moment, though, I thought of all my friends and family who attended those programs, and all the amazing female healthcare professionals I’ve had contact with. They’re awesome, and we need more of them!
When I miscarried my first pregnancy, I ended up getting a D&C to remove the baby from my body. That was an incredibly difficult day for me. Aside from my husband, the female nurses there were amazing support. One nurse came and took us from the waiting room to the surgery prep area, and as we somberly walked down the hall, she said, “I’m really sorry you’re here for this.” She didn’t say anything else, but I felt like she was acknowledging my baby, which I desperately needed at that time.
While in my little curtained “room,” my doctor came into the surgery prep area and announced to the staff, “Three down, 1 to go!” The nurse anesthetist bounced into my room with a huge smile and said, “Well, what are we having done today? Feeling good?” Thankfully, there were nurses in the room with us both times, who worked to distract me from my tears and glare at the doctor with a “Read the chart before you talk!” look. God bless my nurse who asked if I could have more meds to calm me down as I was wheeled away from my husband and taken back for the procedure. And also the nurse who was there when I woke up, who let my husband come back sooner than he was allowed because I could not stop crying. I get that the worst day of my life was just another day at work for the doctor and anesthetist, but they were adding salt to my wounds while my nurses were trying to clean them up.
The Physician’s Assistant that I met with after several months of not getting pregnant again was wonderful. She patiently listened to me cry-explain that I didn’t understand why I wasn’t having a period anymore. She understood that I wasn’t ready to try Clomid yet and that it wouldn’t fix whatever was going on with me. She shared that she also had fertility issues and knew the pain we felt. I’m sure it was difficult working there, but I’m so glad she was there. Even the phlebotomist who took my blood so frequently during those months was always supportive. Being in that office gave me anxiety every time, but they helped.
When I found out I was pregnant in October, it was a bit of a surprise and I was stressed out that I hadn’t been taking prenatals yet and knew I needed to be on progesterone. The PA’s at my new OB’s office met with me asap to make sure things were good and get me my prescription. At about 8 weeks, I started cramping and bleeding heavily at a church function and was positive I miscarried. The PA’s got me in the next morning for an ultrasound and the sonographer breathed a sigh of relief when she found the heartbeat. They were all understanding of my pregnancy anxiety and asked if I’d want another ultrasound the next week to make sure things were still good.
Our pediatrician and pediatric dentist also happen to be women. Not by design, they were both highly recommended. Honestly, I don’t like every female practitioner I’ve met. It’s not about “oh I like her because she’s a girl.” I have had more positive than negative experiences with men in healthcare. In any healthcare setting, I want someone who is well-qualified, treats us with respect and not condescension, and has some emotional intelligence as well. Are there men who have those things? Absolutely. My new OB and primary care physician are both men. Are there women who totally suck at those things? Definitely, and I won’t go back to them either.
The older I get, the more appreciative I am of women in healthcare who know their stuff and have empathy. Our society doesn’t do a great job at helping girls understand their bodies, but it’s so important that women of all ages have someone who they feel comfortable with asking questions. For many women, that’s other women.
For most settings, it is a long road of rigorous education, fighting stereotypes, hard hours, and difficult situations. We are lucky to have so many women willing to put up with that in order to be there for us. As we meet girls and women who want to pursue higher education in any healthcare setting, I hope that we don’t give them reason to doubt themselves, their abilities, or their priorities. Let’s give them encouragement and support. They need it and we need them.