Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No, I'm Not a Nurse

Salesguy: Do you need a new suit?

Me: No, thanks, I don't need one if I wear my white coat.

Salesguy: Oh, are you a nurse?

Me (politely): No, I'm a doctor.

Salesguy: Ohhhh.

I know every one of my female classmates has dealt with this, and I'm sure we're not alone. There are worse things to call me, of course, than "nurse". Nurses do a ton of work that I don't have to. I don't have to change sheets, clean bedpans, draw blood, or answer the call button all night (although I will get to answer my pager if the call button was pushed for me).

So why, then, does it irritate me when people assume that if you're a female in a health profession, you have to be a nurse? And conversely, if you're male, that you're a doctor? There are male nurses out there, more than ever, and women now make up at least half of current medical school classes (mine had a female majority). Is it so shocking that I'm a doctor (or about to be--I'm trying to get used to saying it, as it will be true in ten days)?

I know that most people don't mean any harm by this, and the guy didn't mean to offend me, but every once in a while I get sensitive about this. Does this mean that I am somehow superior to a nurse, or that I feel superior to them? I hope not. However, I have worked awfully hard to get to this point (hence my defensiveness). I want some acknowledgment that this took eight years to get here. I don't want everyone to call me "Doctor", but I am proud to be able to call myself one.

And I'm awfully tickled that, from now on, formal invitations addressed to us will read "Dr. Tiny Shrink and Mr. Husband Of". I find this totally amusing.

Okay, I'm probably a little overly proud of this, and maybe even a bit conceited, but it'll be rubbed out of me soon enough. I'm sure there will be times during intern year when I'll wish I could say "I'm just the medical student, let me get the doctor for you." In fact, I think that is highly likely. Ack, less than 1.5 months to go!


Dragonfly said...

When I say I am doing medicine I get "to be a??" And they don't mean GP, paediatrics, surgeon etc. "To be a nurse....or a pharmacist?..."

frectis said...

Just today when I picked up my dog from the vet I asked about how I should tell if the dog was getting sick again... s/s of infection the same as a human in post op? The vet asked me if I was a doctor and I said a midwife and he said, "Ohhhh" ;) No one ever guesses mine right :P

Basia said...

I got my first wedding invitation to "Dr and Mr." I told my mom, and she got upset. She got offended, told me not to encourage this kind of behavior, and to watch out to make sure my husband's feelings (aka, male ego) didn't get bruised. I was shocked by her responce.

Midwife with a Knife said...

It is irritating. I hate correcting people, because I think nurses are great, but I also feel like I deserve the credit (and let's face it the prestige) of an MD.

Tiny Shrink said...

Dragonfly: I get that, too. As if "medical school" encompasses all health professions jobs. Of course, the term is older than many of the recent jobs (PT, PA, etc), but if I were in PT school I'd say PT school.

Frectis: perhaps you just look the part more than I do? Or talk the talk better? Of course, "midwife" is a pretty cool title, too.

Basia: I'd have been shocked, too. Fortunately, knowing your husband, I doubt it bothers him, and I'm sure he's as proud of you as we all are.

MWWAK: I think you've hit it. There is a prestige issue here, and we feel like we've earned it.

PRN said...

I'm a female nurse and I get called "Doctor" from time to time. (On the floor where I work everyone wears the same light blue scrubs and the docs generally leave their white coats at the door to avoid getting blood and amniotic fluid on them.) I always respond with pride, "Actually I'm a nurse."

I'm surprised by midwife-with-a-knife's response because in her blog-name she essentially calls herself a nurse... Midwives these days are nurses with their masters or doctoral degrees. What's the deal? MWAK? If we're going to get protective of titles, I'd like to reclaim "Midwife" for the non-knife-wielding medical professionals among us.