‘Doctor, not Nurse’

By April 18, 2020 April 19th, 2020 Inspiration, Medical Sciences

Hello and welcome to the MTA blog!

It has been quite a trying season for all of us, but we remain hopeful and prayerful while adhering to safety measures in these times. We would get through this.

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There are very few things that annoy female doctors/medical students more than being wrongly called nurses. I saw a few opinions about this topic recently and then I remembered my own thoughts and convictions about it. After thinking about the whole thing for a while, a luxury that the current lockdown situation has afforded me, I thought ‘Why not post this?’

Let me put a quick disclaimer… this post in no way is intended to disrespect nurses. I love your profession and admire you for all the work you put into the care of patients. You are the true custodians of the wards and patient care, no argument about that is valid. But I hope that as you read this, you understand my point a little more…

Before writing this post, I tried to do some studying because based on my training, you are not allowed to make statements based on merely sentiment, there has to be substantial evidence/backing of your statements before they are considered valid.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t find much data on the situation of things in Nigeria, I didn’t find too much on the topic really. But I found enough to give me some solid information and I’m happy they support my views.

Here’s the deal, professions like Medicine were formerly no-go areas for females, in fact, there were laws and rules guiding such movements, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Females were only allowed into terrains of midwifery. It was the only clinical profession women were made to practice. The other informal health care providers who were female were called ‘healers’ or ‘witches’. These people were majorly consulted by the poor who could not afford to see physicians and so, they were inferior to the doctors, which is not shocking.

“During the period of witch-hunting, midwifery was the only clinical profession in which women were allowed to practice, partly because its lower status did not attract male medical practitioners

What I find very interesting is the relentless nature of the female population and their refusal to take the backseat when they had so much more to offer. In the United Kingdom, Women like Dr James (Miranda) Barry in the United Kingdom actually had to conceal their identity as females to be accepted into medical school and practice medicine. She played the game so well, her cover was only blown when she died!

Another evidence of women’s tireless fight to be involved and their amazing resilience is that in the United Kingdom and even in the US, the revolution which brought about the involvement of females in medical practice was pioneered by women. Women fought for us, for you and me.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Sophia Jex Blake amongst other great women, established the first medical school in Britain to allow women to graduate and practise medicine, the London School of Medicine for Women (now the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine). In the US, Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female medical doctor, spent most of her years championing gender equality in medicine.

This information does two things for me:

– It makes me very proud of the gender I belong to.

– It makes me realize how much has been done to secure me a spot in medical practice, along with many other females in the world.

What is my point?

This historical background that I know is less than a quarter of all that truly happened has made it clear to us that a female in the hospital environment or on a medical team was usually not the head of the managing team. She was usually the nurse or midwife or something else.

The statistics have greatly changed, what is now referred to as the ‘feminisation’ of medical workforce in places like the UK.

Females make up a larger percentage of medical school entries and medical practitioners worldwide. The values have continued to rise over years and decades, and I don’t think the situation would change any time soon.

So, today, I am one of the abnormalities. I am part of a trend that the world is watching with amazement, I am a female undergoing medical training.

So, when people look at me in the hospital and wrongly address me as a nurse, I am not offended. I am not offended because it is the most that they know. They have only acted based on the normalcy that they were brought up to know; female nurse, male doctor.

So, instead of getting offended, I am proud to inform them of my being part of an abnormal trend. I gently correct them, with a smile (well, on a good day) that anticipates their amusement…

‘Doctor, not nurse’.

I am also not offended because I wonder how many similar normalcies I have wrongly believed; Chinese people only eat rats and strange food, Igbos are mannerless and largely materialistic, that Yorubas love to eat only spicy food, Edos are extremely fetish, and so much more.

How would I feel if I was corrected harshly by any of these people, when in fact I have only believed what I have been told and made to believe? And by the way, if there is anything that this should teach us, it is that we need to do away with stereotypes because they definitely do more harm than good.

Let us not become so infuriated by the acts of men that are expected and then neglect the core of the practice and the reason why we fought for a space in the first place… because we are equally as competent. Not because we are men or masculine, but because even in our feminine makeup, our peculiarities bring to the table what cannot be found anywhere else.

We must therefore prove people wrong by our actions and conduct, continuing to uphold the very principles of good medical practice and morality.

I say this because we tend to be emotionally driven, more than normal and if we use this the wrong way, we may become rude/unkind to people who wrongly address us, giving people more reasons to question the place of a woman in medical practice, given her emotional and ‘weak’ tendencies.

A friend and colleague of mine, some years ago, told a story of when she was pregnant and admitted due to an exaggerated effect of her hormones during her first trimester (hyperemesis gravidarum). She was in need of some assistance one night and still being quite ignorant and very much in tune with the normalcies of the world, she committed the abomination of calling a female caregiver a nurse. She repeatedly called this lady, who ignored her throughout, though it was very clear she was the one being addressed. She then finally answered with a rude and loud remark ‘I am not a nurse!’ Followed by some words which should not come out of a doctor’s mouth, at least to a patient. She denied my colleague attention that night and she continues to remember that doctor for that event.

You see?

We owe it to those who fought for our place in medicine to prove that we deserve it and their fight was not in vain. We would correct all these abnormalities in due time, but we must do it the right way. Let your actions speak for you and let your words be graceful, with a dash of confidence and competence.

In summary, I have decided to not get easily offended by being called a nurse. I have instead, decided to proudly correct people, I am happy to prove the stereotype wrong, I am happy to be part of an abnormal movement that is quickly becoming the norm.

Am I telling us to be quiet? not by any means!

But I am saying that we are in a delicate position, and should therefore address issues in ways that do not question our involvement in the practice or make our argument be loosely excused as emotional or lastly, prove the labour of our heroes past a complete waste.

These are just my thoughts, I would love to hear yours.

Thank you for reading.

– Deba, for MTA.


– Women in Medicine: A Review of Changing Physician Demographics, Female Physicians by Specialty, State and Related Data. Staff Care (an AMN healthcare company).

Accessible on https://www.amnhealthcare.com/uploadedFiles/MainSite/Content/Staffing_Recruitment/Staffcare-WP-Women%20in%20Med.pdf

– Women in medicine: historical perspectives and recent trends. L. Jefferson, K. Bloor and A. Maynard, British Medical Bulletin, Volume 114, Issue 1, June 2015, Pages 5–15, https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldv007. Published: 08 March 2015.

Accessible on: https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/114/1/5/246075

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