* * Anonymous Doc

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One of my colleagues yelled at a patient in clinic yesterday, because the patient couldn't remember to call her "doctor." She was "nurse," she was "honey," she was "sweetie," but she was never "doctor." And finally-- and it was at the end of a very long shift-- she lost her cool, and told the patient she is a *doctor* and he needs to call her that.

This is a problem female residents have fairly often, and male residents have pretty much never. There is some segment of the population-- and it's not always the elderly patients-- who simply can't wrap their heads around a female doctor. Especially a young-looking female doctor. And, whether inadvertently or not, they keep addressing her as something-not-a-doctor. And if happens once, fine, but if it happens a dozen times a day I can imagine it starts to feel like something more personal, and I can see why someone can react.

I've had patients call me by my first name. And it's not like I'm doing anything to encourage that, but it doesn't really bother me. I don't take it as any sort of comment on my authority as a doctor or my qualifications or anything like that. They're not mistaking me for a candy striper.

But I think for women it's different. I think it ends up seeming like a sign of a lack of respect, and that they're not being taken seriously.

Personally, as long as the patients aren't calling me by a curse word, I'm fine with it...


  1. I think some people have the view that all woman in health care are nurses (Biomed placement student here) and all male are doctors

  2. I think it would annoy me if the patient kept addressing the "doctor" questions to the male in the room, just because he was male, refused to listen to me, or treated me like a waitress. Otherwise, meh. A med student's lower than pretty much everyone.

  3. It's great that you, as a male, acknowledge this. At a clinic I go to often, some of the patients constantly refer to the (med student) men as doctor and the (med student) women as nurse. Sometimes the women lose their cool, and I think it's completely understandable. We are all professionals and it's horribly annoying to be reminded constantly of your gender in a professional setting.

  4. Imagine how nurses must feel...calling other people by their titles all day long and never getting the same respect back.

    Or worse, not even getting a name at all...just 'the nurse' - as though they are totally interchangeable.

    But then again, I've had a lot to say about this issue lately...

  5. The only time I ever lost my cool about this was not with a patient, it was with the guy in the parking garage who ticketed me for parking in a doctor's spot. Even though I had been parking in that exact same spot for SEVEN EFFING YEARS. Every can of whoopass I had was empty when I was through with him.

    Patients, eh, I let 'em call me what they like. As long as it isn't an expletive.

  6. It takes a moment to grasp the concept but you are actually doing the same thing by referring to her as a female doctor. As long as people continue to call doctors who are female "female doctors" (are those gynecologists?) it implies that it is an exception to the rule..

    You will often hear the term "male nurse" however so that implies that nurses by default are female. Would you ever put the "male" adjective in front? IE a male doctor?

  7. Anonymous, given the topic of this post and for the sake of readable writing I don't think the phrase "female doctor" is out of line here. The subject of the post, after all, is gender differences and how they affect the way people treat their doctors. One could write "doctor who is female" but this is terrble writing, which I think is the greatest sin of all. It's far worse than writing "female doctor."

  8. Do the nurses not wear something different than doctors that would make it obvious?

  9. I have female friends who are doctors, and one of them has a five year old son. This little boy went to a new pediatrician, and afterward his mom asked him how he liked Dr. Blah. The boy said, "He's nice, but he's a BOY doctor... that's weird."

    Love when the confusion switches sides.