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Dear Women Physicians

Updated: May 30, 2019

I follow Dr. Stolbach on Twitter and quite enjoy his educational materials. I did not enjoy this tweet.

Dear Women Physicians,

Please stop sharing this tweet.

The main message is this: “Hey patients! It’s 2019, and women are doctors now. Please proceed accordingly.”

But the subtext to this tweet is this:  “Just because I’m a woman, don’t lump me in with the nurses. I’m a doctor, NOT your nurse.”. 

I get the frustration behind this post. Thousands of women have gone to medical school, passed boards, survived residency, and still face rampant gender bias at the hands of the very people they serve. That sucks. 

I get the frustration because nurses feel it too. We love our physician colleagues. We are partners on the healthcare frontline. And when we see posts like this - shared by our well-meaning coworkers - it stings. 

Women physicians, this joke does not serve your purpose.

You cannot challenge the myth that Physicians are Men by reinforcing the myth that Nurses are Women. Also, equally troubling, by sharing this tweet, you seek to elevate yourself to the role of Physician by squashing the role of Nurse. 

In seeking to redefine Physician as a non-gendered role - that is to say both men, women, and non-binary people can and do perform that role well - WHY must we reinforce the role of the feminine, subservient Nurse? In challenging one gender role, how does it help to reinforce another gender role? 

The answer: It doesn’t. This joke reinforces the general notion that there are gendered roles in healthcare. And when women physicians share this tweet, it reinforces the lie that the female doctor is the exception rather than the rule. 

This tweet is the EASY commentary to make. It is not the meaningful commentary we need. 

I have said it before, and I will say it every day after this. Nursing is not ‘women’s work’. There are capable men who can and should be nurses, and we want to welcome them into the profession. There are capable women who can and should be physicians, and we want to encourage them to embrace that role. 

Gender is not a prerequisite to profession. The sooner we get away from gendering health professions, the better.

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