Despite ongoing efforts and changing perspectives, gender equity in surgical specialties has not yet been achieved and is not simply a problem of the past. Only in addressing deep-seated gender roles and actively creating opportunities for the representation of women and gender-diverse persons in surgery can surgeons in Canada accurately reflect the populations they serve.
My third year had not been going as planned, and most days I was questioning my purpose in life, which I was once so sure of.
My eyes locked on the upside-down words scribbled on the paper that was torn from my preceptor’s notebook a few moments prior. Dear God, my patient wrote, I am grateful for this life.
he sits on the edge of the bed, forlorn – / eyes squeezed shut, back hunched over. / the veins snaking up his arms seem / translucent as he clenches the bed rail / in a death grip.
As a future physician, this experience reminded me to remain empathetic, compassionate and unbiased in all aspects of patient care. By doing so, I can not only improve trust and connection with my patients but also ensure that my clinical judgment remains clear.
Notes must be written, and labs must be ordered. / Everyone has their role to do, or else chaos is restored. / All this every day in one golden hour.
Most of all though, I tried to calm my racing mind and remind myself to just learn. And with that, I wondered, “What is the most important thing I can do today?”
I opened their chart and scrolled to the recent notes section. A new title I had never seen before popped on the screen. There, at the top of the chart, “Deceased Note” was written in bold letters.
The beauty of medicine is that we are trained to see each person as an individual, not as a victim of their stereotypes. We are taught that we are more than our skin color, our religion, our clothing or our gender. But even though I see more than a patient’s demographic on static paper, those same patients, and sometimes even colleagues, fail to see me as more than just a woman.
With imposter syndrome raging,/ I sit quietly at my desk,/ reflect on goals for my future/ and what it means to do my best.
Upon reflection, my actions and feelings in caring for this patient reveal how truly afraid I was to be wrong; not necessarily about the diagnosis, but rather about whether the patient would be okay. Maybe coming in daily and opening her chart for good news was just me hoping that my initial impression was still right instead of coming to terms with the fact I was very wrong.
The crumpled old gentleman nestled in the armchair of his hospital room, bundled in blankets from the warmer down the hall, cards from his family propped up like a miniature Stonehenge on the table beside him. I listened closely to his heart and lungs, eyed the half-full urinal hooked onto his bed frame, and drew my fingers along his shins.