Scrubs, Sexist Double Standards And The Pandemic

Scrubs, Sexist Double Standards And The Pandemic

Scrubs, Sexist Double Standards And The Pandemic

Scrubs are now sexist, apparently. Oh, have there been copious takes on pandemic life but this one takes the cake, err-the scalpel. From The Atlantic, comes a piece discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic fueled sexism against women doctors.

Trisha Pasricha is a gastroenterology research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. According to this,”female doctors have always dealt with appearance-related confusion and disrespect. That only got worse during the pandemic.”

Why? Baggy scrubs taking the place of the white coat.

In the spring of 2020, as Boston’s first COVID-19 wave raged, I was the gastroenterologist on call responding to a patient hospitalized with a stomach ulcer. Wearing a layer of yellow personal protective equipment over a pair of baggy scrubs, I spent 30 minutes explaining to him that he needed an endoscopic procedure. We built a rapport, and by the end of our conversation about the pros and cons, he seemed to agree with my recommendation. I told him we would be ready to perform his endoscopy within half an hour.

‘Well, before we do anything, I’m going to need to discuss it with the doctor.’

I blinked.”-Trisha Pasricha

Blink, blink. The horror this patient mistook her for a nurse! Why? Because she was wearing yellow PPE over baggy scrubs! She said she had introduced herself as the doctor upon entering the room. Of course, she did and of course, she would. She’s a woman doctor. But despite all of this, this sexist man who was in pain, and perhaps maybe a little confused and out-of-sorts (pain does that to you), made the mistake of the wrong choice of words. Blink, blink.

Pasricha discusses a recent study to support her argument that women wearing scrubs are perceived as “less professional” than their male counterparts. And wearing this pesky PPE in hospitals made it more difficult to separate the doctors from the other essential staff-especially women doctors. Oh, the sexism! She sites many inequalities women physicians face, to include being paid 75 cents to every dollar made by a man, a disproportionate number of women health care workers falling ill to COVID compared to men, how the pandemic has forced women in the medical profession to stay home instead of writing those research papers and…the icing on the cake:

On top of all that, we’ve had to deal with this new wrinkle in the double standard related to the oldest problem we face: our appearance, specifically our clothing.”-Trisha Pasricha

Gone are the days of the white coat. They were so 2019, anyway. Scrubs are in. But because unisex scrubs have been adopted as the standard uniform of health care workers, this, has, according to Pasricha’s musings “moved the goal posts” in something very important in her world…that men recognize that she is a DOCTOR, damnit!

Under the paternalistic guise of wanting to ensure that early-career physicians were ‘cautious of their social media content,’ three male “screeners” used fake accounts to scour the accounts of their unwitting female colleagues (who make up a paltry 6 percent of their specialty) to evaluate their ‘unprofessional’ clothing; they were off-duty female surgeons accused of “provocative posing in bikinis/swimwear.” (In the middle of a global pandemic, it is unclear how this issue became a pressing scientific question.)”-Trisha Pasricha

Petty that some male doctors took it upon themselves to scour social media accounts of female surgeons wearing bikinis and not scrubs, yes. The article Pasricha references has since been retracted. Take a look:

But isn’t is also petty of Doc Pasricha to also go seeking the apparent, blatant misogyny of her male patients? Good Lord, I would hate to be a man in her care. How dare you guys assume she is a nurse because she has to wear scrubs! Perhaps she should wear a mask that reads “I am a DOCTOR” just to get it through the thick skulls of these Neanderthals who think she doesn’t have a brain! Oh! But it only going to get worse, says DOCTOR Pasricha:

Now, with COVID-19 in retreat once again, hospitals are relaxing their dress codes to pre-pandemic standards—which unfortunately means swapping out one source of appearance-related sexism for another. I am bracing for a return to the kind of distressingly routine encounters that marked my early years as a physician.

One day, during my senior year of residency, I was explaining the etiology of a patient’s heart murmur to my team of seven more-junior physicians, pharmacists, and medical students. I asked my patient how much exercise he was able to tolerate with his condition.

He hesitated, then smiled. ‘I’m sorry, I got distracted. It’s that little leopard skirt you have on. Can’t take my eyes off.'”-Trisha Pasricha

Well, how dare he, that sexist pig with the heart murmur! This is a smart woman here…who has been reduced to a distracting leopard print!

I scrambled to collect myself and carry on. But the damage was done. For the remainder of my rounds, I felt like an impostor playing a doctor on TV.”–Trisha Pasricha

Such damage. I hate to say this, but if that is all it took for this doc to “feel like an impostor playing a doctor on TV all day on her rounds”, perhaps there’s some other deeper psychological issues going on here? Just a guess. And, if Trisha Pasricha wants to throw in “pandemic-proven grit”, she is not making much of a case for this by whining about “sexist double standards”. In her opinion, this is what “limits” women doctors. Really?

We need you, as patients, to do your part too. Listen when a woman comes into the room and explains her role, regardless of what she’s wearing. Don’t automatically address your questions to the male member of the care team. (He might be just a medical student.) Let us finish speaking without cutting us off; patients are more likely to interrupt female physicians than male physicians. And above all, don’t comment on our outfits. Female physicians want to be judged by the treatment we give you—and nothing else.”–Trisha Pasricha

Scrubs or no scrubs, (or leopard print skirt), I am listening to the medical professional who enters the room to care for whatever my condition may be that brought me there. I would venture MOST people will react in the same fashion. Are there going to be some who may interrupt and/or insist to speak to a “male member of the care team”? Sure. Thicken your butt skin, Trisha. Perhaps, you may want to call on the assistance of your plastic surgeon friend for this procedure. After all, he makes more money than you do, apparently, because he’s male. In your book, this has nothing to do with medical specialization but everything to do with his gender. Want people to get rid of their pre-conceived notions of physicians? Perhaps you should rid yourself of yours.

Photo Credit: Official U.S. Navy Page/FlickR/Creative Commons/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)/Cropped

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  • BSmith says:

    I can think of no better evidence that Covid-19 is not a real pandemic than this doctor’s trivial complaint. If this were a massive Ebola or Boubonic Plague outbreak this self-absorbed cupcake would be too ashamed to express her narcissism.

  • mer says:

    Sorry, but most Drs are a*holes, regardless of which one of the 57 genders they identify as.
    All I want in a Dr (of anything):
    Actually LISTEN to what I am saying about my symptoms. If I say “it feels like the worst sinus headache you’ve ever had over on this side of my neck” is not me saying “I have a sinus headache”. If I say “it hurts when I do this, right here”, pay attention.
    Old time GPs actually listened to what you said.
    Modern “Drs”, not so much

    • Robin H says:

      OMG, my sister was in rehab and told them her leg hurt, felt like a leg cramp, For a week they tried different things to relieve the cramp. Turns out she had a broken hip. They heard cramp and that was all they heard.

      • mer says:

        That is a good example of what I mean. Everyone has to be a specialist now instead of a general practitioner.
        “Headache? I’m a surgeon so I have to open your head up to see what’s wrong.”

        I’ve always had better results talking with the “lowly peons” instead of the Drs (yes, I’m generalizing because the really good Drs are few and far between).

        • GWB says:

          Honestly, the docs at Patient First seem better than a lot of docs in hospitals.

        • Robin H says:

          The best advice my sister got was from a PA at her pain management office. The doctor there wasn’t doing anything to help her, the PA said the best way to get help was to get admitted to the hospital. Worst doctor was a muscular neurologist that diagnosed a spine injury without xrays or any idea how it could have been caused. If the only tool they have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

  • b smith says:

    I am a male doctor. Sometimes I get accused by pt’s of looking too young to be their doctor. I laugh it off. I don’t write a snarky article about it. Patients have a lot of anxiety which is natural. They say things they’d ordinarily not. They come across as angry, sad, overly friendly, chatty, etc. I assume they are nervous. As a physician you can’t be that fragile. You have to be supportive, realistic and speak to them in terms they’ll understand. It’s not about me, it’s about them.

    • Cameron says:

      “Sometimes I get accused by pt’s of looking too young to be their doctor”

      A few years ago, I had to go to the ER for a sharp stabbing pain in my arm. The doctor injected some pain killers and we got to talking about what led up to it. His first line of inquiry was about my pets because “In my years as a doctor, pains like this can be caused by something like tripping over the family dog.”

      In my mind I was saying “How many years have you been a doc, Doogie Howser?” But the rational part took over by reminding me that the nice man had just given me something that made me feel better. -:-)

  • Robin H says:

    I’m sorry, with all the face masks and shields that they have to wear nobody can hear what they’re saying. Add an older hard of hearing patient and they’re totally lost.

    Now let’s do the nurses that are mistaken for aides or housekeeping.

    What a whiner.

  • anon says:

    Dr. Bajarias wants to be taken more seriously. But she posts a bikini pic to tell us she’s a pro, and uses the handle “in vino Vera”.

    • GWB says:

      Obviously there’s some discrimination going on here, since I never get a doctor that looks like that when I go in to the clinic or hospital.

  • Cameron says:

    My mom is a Registered Nurse who got her start as an EMT. Yeah, she clawed her way up the food chain. As an EMT and later a Paramedic, she had to lift the same loads and do the same job as any man. I believe her answer to a person like that would be “Get over it and focus on the patient.”

  • GWB says:

    patients are more likely to interrupt female physicians
    Maybe because the female physicians won’t stop talking?
    It certainly seems true for Dr Pasricha.

  • Lewis says:

    Maybe they should just get name tags, like Walmart! DOCTOR Jane Smith, NURSE, John Smith!

    What next, why can’t they just listen and do their job, another bunch of women whiners, just saying………

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