I was never a feminist. I found the fight for equal pay and affirmative action boring and distasteful. I did not want to admit that women are held to a different standard than men. I honestly believed that the world was fair, and that in The United States- everyone had the same shot. Also, I had a negative mental image of what I imagine a militant feminist to be.
However, I googled the term. It is simply a theory of political, social, and economic equality between the sexes. Turns out, it has nothing to do with refusing to shave your underarms. I recently figured out that my status as a woman- more specifically, a young woman is actually acting against me in my professional life. Now, throw another wrench into the mess. I am a fat, single mother, who happens to be… just a nurse practitioner.
Yes. You heard me right. I am NOT a doctor. I did not go to medical school. I never wore the short white coat. Believe me, I kick myself on a regular basis for not achieving this level of education. I find it appalling that I did not graduate from college until I was 27 years old. I am horrified by the fact that I have to take medication to slow my thoughts down enough that I can focus on the task at hand. People assume that they can tear me down, and I assure you- I have torn myself to pieces for years, and there is nothing they can say that shocks me- or even worse, that I have not said to myself.
Apparently, in the eyes of some folks, I also happen to have been born without a very important appendage. A penis.
I must have missed school on the day that they taught charm. Apparently, I am an abrasive bitch who has the audacity to speak her mind- even if it differs from the man standing in front of me. I have had physicians completely ignore me and seek the counsel of the nearest man standing. Never mind that I actually knew what I was talking about.
Oh, no. She forgot her penis. She must not have anything valuable to add. Let us forget the fact that I have made it my mission to learn and remember what each of the physicians I work for expect and prefer when it comes to patient care. I have to switch back and forth every week- all depending on who is in the unit that week. It is maddening.
I am left to wonder how a woman can possibly be expected to sound confident, yet remain demure. I perhaps come across as mercurial. Difficult to manage. Disruptive. However, I would like to point out that I am frequently the one who is focusing on the minutia of the moment. I do have a flaw. I am absolutely unable to fulfill my duties as a sycophant. I struggle with being quiet when I see information that does not appear to be on the table. I struggle with not asking “why?” when I do not understand the plan of care. I fear that this could be seen as insubordination, when in all actuality- I am seeking knowledge to facilitate stronger clinical skills on my part.
My role is often quite hermetic. The isolation of being the only person in a particular role within a large group of healthcare providers is profound. I am not one of the doctors. I am also not one of the nurses. I no longer work in MICU, however, I am only in the office sometimes. I am simply an object that is passed around. Passed to whichever nurse or medical assistant gets stuck with me. I am frequently an afterthought- or an inconvenience that must be dealt with. I think that I felt adrift. Cast out. So, I inadvertently sought to find a place of familiarity. A lighter, easier tone. I needed some of the formalities to lighten up. I needed a level playing field. That was a mistake. Through my attempts to cope with a difficult situation- I unintentionally diminished the professional courtesy that my superiors had earned.
I frequently have nurses choose not to speak to me or answer if I ask a question. I have overheard people say “Oh, Nyki ordered that- not the doctor. That is why I did not do it.” There is a nurse manager who frequently berates me and demands explanations for things that are quite simply beyond my control. She finds it appropriate to speak of our team in disparaging tones anytime they are out of earshot. It is funny, I worked for her for over 7 years- and yet, I have ridden up the elevator with her on more than one occasion with her glaring at me in stony silence.
I should have known there was going to be trouble even before I started. I had been warned. There were so many people who doubted my ability to succeed in this role in this Multidisciplinary team. I did not know that many people viewed my role as that of a scribe. I have actually been told on more than one occasion that is essentially what I am. I sincerely believed that if I read enough, and tried to adapt to each individuals preferences that I could overcome these obstacles. I honestly thought I would earn their respect. I simply wanted to be viewed as a competent healthcare provider- who was well aware of her limitations. I was not prepared for the incongruous actions of displaying both competent and “humble” attitudes.
Another interesting caveat of my “mid-level” role… I am torn between the need to shield the doctors I work for from mundane tasks, and trivial matters, while also acting as the easy to approach friend of the nurses. I never gave it much thought until I realized that I was being attacked on all fronts. I think the moment of clarity was when I was asked if I felt betrayed. My initial response was no. That had not occurred to me. Until I realized that perhaps I had been betrayed. Set up. Essentially lied about. Okay, perhaps not lies… but, exaggerations. Which has left me in the position that I cannot defend myself. Because I am not perfect. I am high-strung. I do talk over people sometimes. I get excited. I am so sorry that I am passionate about my job.
I should have known that stepping into a different role with my former employers would be difficult. I think I underestimated my abilities to charm the serpents. My inability to have a candid conversation with the majority of people with whom I work for and with has left me without an anchor. I am quite simply afraid now. I fear that will inhibit my ability to act as a patient advocate. It is funny, writing this was supposed to get me all fired up and ready to hop on a feminist band wagon. I am afraid it is doing the opposite. Perhaps the master manipulator was right. I am not the right person for this job. I actually kinda think there is no right person for this job. I do not know how one person can bend and live up to every single fucking person on earth’s expectations. Don’t forget, it is not only how well you do your job… it is also based on whether or not each person happens to like your personality.
I never dreamed that it would be a crime to be outspoken. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision being told to be quiet. I was raised in a time that outspoken, strong-willed women were all the rage. Remember the song Bitch? It was an anthem for young girls like me. And, now… I am faced with a choice. Be a sycophant or lose my livelihood. No. It is just not fair.
How does a woman earn the respect of her male counterparts? How do I influence the world and leave my mark- if I am being hushed? Is it a crime to want your ideas to be spoken? How do I succeed when it seems that no one in the world wants me to? Do I have to trade companionship and camaraderie for professional accolades? It’s true. You really can’t have it all.