A recent article written by Dr. Karen Sibert was shared via social media, intending to help women avoid harassment in medicine. Unfortunately, although it was well-intended, the content was questionable. Written by a woman who reportedly went through training when medicine was skewed very heavily toward the male gender, and who has raised two daughters, there are clear lessons to be learned from her path. However, the tips included in the article stray from the leading message of female empowerment. Here, I’ll deconstruct Dr. Sibert’s tips and add my own perspective to hopefully make them more relevant to women in medicine today.
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Gratitude can be transformative.
Today wasn’t less busy than any other day this week. Like many ED's across the country, we are boarding many patients. The acuity of our ill patients is high at baseline, and combined with influenza season, many hospitals are at capacity and still trying to function. Stress levels are peaking, and staff is overworked and underpaid, at a time of the year when money tends to be stretched thin to start with. It's been a tumultuous week. But I had an experience this morning that set the tone for my day and in turn, set a gratitude chain in motion...
You might say that words don’t make a difference. In some ways, you’re right. But there’s a funny thing about words – they hold magic and power. They have the ability to bring things to life. And this is exactly what the #MeToo movement is doing.
My career in medicine is something I am proud of. I was the first one in the family to enter the field of medicine, and I have navigated the maze of my medical education and training often blindly, without footsteps to follow. I have built a career in which I am both passionate and successful. From the outside, it is an incredible accomplishment. But it has not been without sacrifice – and those sacrifices have impacted everyone who loves me.
A while back, I had a really rough week at the hospital. It was a combination of many things: lack of sleep, working at a site away from home, and a string of very sick patients that culminated in one of the hardest patient deaths I’ve had to handle so far in my career. I happened to mention some of this in casual conversation with a family member and it stopped them dead in their tracks.
“How do you do it?” they asked.
Her name rolled around in my mouth like a smooth marble. It was the kind of name you don’t hear much anymore. Then, I looked at her birthday on her patient information sticker. The year was the nineteen twenties. It made me think back to the days of roaring twenties, flappers and the Great Depression. But in her case, it was real depression that brought her to me.