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First in a Series : What Does It Mean to be a Woman in Medicine?

Sasha Shillcutt

Post By Sasha Shillcutt

April 5, 2018

Women in the healthcare industry face a multitude of challenges: work-life balance, being a mother and a professional, workplace harassment from both patients and colleagues, and pay gaps these and more challenge women daily. To start collecting some insight on this topic, InCrowd surveyed a sampling of 50 women physicians from the US to get their thoughts on what it’s like working as a woman in the healthcare industry.  We took it a step further and wanted to give these voices from the survey a spotlight by having other female HCPs contribute blog posts on the topic, ‘What does it mean to be a women in medicine.’ Starting our series is guest blogger Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, cardiac anesthesiologist from Nebraska. 

What Does It Mean to be a Woman in Medicine?

By Sasha K. Shillcutt, MD, MS

Cardiac Anesthesiologist

Founder, Brave Enough

www.becomebraveenough.com

Twitter: @rubraveenough

As a cardiac anesthesiologist, I often get asked by high school and college students what it is like to be a doctor. They want to know if they should pursue the years of education and rigorous training. Hesitantly, they ask me what my average day is like. They ask me if I have a husband or a family. They ask me if I have a hobby. They want to know if I “have a life”.

They are essentially asking me this:

What does it mean to be a woman in medicine in 2018?

Is it worth it?

When they ask me these questions, I know what they are trying to ascertain. I struggle with the answers, because I don’t want to deter them, and I truly love being a physician.  But I also know what lies ahead for them.

I could tell them that despite obtaining all the same degrees and expertise of their male colleagues, they will have to work harder to be respected. That despite earning a doctorate degree and completing residencies and fellowship, they will be called nurse on a weekly basis. They will likely be paid less, have more grants rejected, and less likely to be a primary author on a manuscript. That they may face maternal discrimination if they choose to have a family.

But I don’t tell them this.  Even though it is true.

I never do.

I tell them that we need them. We need their creativity, collaboration, leadership and innovation. We need their excellence and compassion. We need their hands and their brains. We need their teamwork, ideas and scientific discovery.

I tell them that medicine for me, is the single most rewarding job I do besides parenting. I tell them that I know the work I do makes a difference in the life of someone else. I tell them it is full of both heartache and unbelievable reward.

I tell them these things because they are true.

I tell them to become doctors. And to never give up on it, even when they face hard days. Even then they have to work harder to be respected, included or promoted. I tell them they are the generation that will likely be taking care of me someday, and I want both men and women physicians to care for me. I tell them they can and will shatter the glass ceiling, because I truly believe they will.

Interesting, what these young women never ask me is: “Do you think I have what it takes?”

They know they are smart enough, capable enough, and can work hard. They just don’t know if they will be happy doing the work that being a woman in medicine requires.

InCrowd surveyed more than 50 women physicians from across the US this March and asked them what it’s like working as a woman in healthcare. There were responses such as “You have to work harder to prove yourself, and you can’t complain about anything,” and others such as “I feel like I am a better physician and mother because I am woman.” The women said it was challenging yet rewarding.

“As a female physician I am frequently called nurse — sometimes even after I have introduced myself or even have taken care of someone for a few days,” said another physician.

“You definitely know you are the minority, but it feels amazing to know that you have made it working side by side with other amazing women,” said another female physician surveyed.

My message is clear: you will face challenges, but we need you to face them.

Carry on women. Keep doing the good work. And in the words of Winston Churchill, ‘never, never give up.’

You can read more of Dr. Shillcutt’s writings at www.becomebraveenough.com. 

 

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