Posted by: sayamika, the killer bunny | 2008 June 2

Penis envy

All female residents/medical students get this one: “Nurse! Nurse!”

In the beginning, I tried not to get bothered by always being called nurse. Nurses are my fellow professionals, and certainly at this stage in the game, the nurses I work with have buckets more practical knowledge than I do. I don’t think I am “better” than anyone.

But. I. Am. Not. A. Nurse.

And yes, I am offended.

If I had wanted to become a nurse, I would have done so. I did not.

I am heading into year 10 of intensive study (you know, to become “just” a GP). I take the responsibility: I am “Dr. Informed.” I don’t get to say, sorry, I’m on break. I am not unionised, nor do I think I should be. I take call for three days at a go (four on long weekends). I “have the big talk” with people nearing the end of life.

I don’t know what colour the pills are (except for synthroid). I don’t know how to make the IV pump stop beeping. I prefer a manual bp cuff to an automatic one, but then I don’t have to take an entire ward’s blood pressure on morning rounds.

I’m curious as to what male nurses make of all this. You guys must get called doctor as much as we’re called nurse. You’re probably just as offended as I am: you trained to be one type of professional, and just because of the way you look, you’re taken to be something else.

So, a note to patients: close to 70% of new medical (as in MD, as in Dr.) graduates are female these days. Even my school, heavily run by the old boys network, was 62% female. A woman in scrubs with a stethoscope is as likely to be your surgeon as your nurse. Either way, it would pay to not piss her off.


10 things I would do if I had a penis for a day:

  • 10. Go to a job interview and not have the interviewer think, hmmm don’t really want to pay for mat leave.
  • 9. Write my name in the snow (dammit, it’s June).
  • 8. Get paid more for the same work.
  • 7. Speak and have people listen, without getting labeled “strident.”
  • 6. Wear shorts without shaving legs.
  • 5. Become leader of the free world.
  • 4. Not have people be surprised that I understand the offside rule.
  • 3. Get called doctor without having to introduce myself.
  • 2. Get called doctor without having to introduce myself.
  • 1. Get called doctor without having to introduce myself.


  1. Yep, I remember telling people I was in medical school and having the standard response, “To become a nurse?”

  2. Oh so true. I have also been asked “to be a pharmacist?”
    Sometimes I wonder if I will introduce myself as Dragonfly or Dr Dragonfly for that reason.

  3. It really, really irritates me being called ‘nurse’ too (or ‘nursie’, as they like to round these parts). And I totally get you – it’s not that I think that I’m better than a nurse, it’s just the assumption that, as a female, all I’m there to do is listen to your complaints and fetch you stuff.

  4. I just posted about this myself.
    I like your top ten list; that was really funny.

  5. Hi TS: I read yours and I think it was still bouncing around subliminally driving me bonkers when I wrote this….

    On the upside, I was studying and a guy noticed that my book said “medicine” on it… he asked when I would be a doctor! I nearly fell on the floor in surprise. It goes to show, it’s not everyone.

    It only seems like it some days.

  6. I once thought a female FP resident I didn’t recognize was a travel/agency nurse (there are plenty of nurses who show up that I’ve never seen before). She went into the room when the ambulance arrived (something the nurse does) and started interviewing the patient and didn’t introduce herself one way or another to me nor the patient. I asked her “uh, are you taking this patient or am I?”

    I am NOT a nurse! I. Am. The. Doctor! She got all pissy for the rest of the day like we’d just called her Hitler until one of the veteran nurses told her “Don’t worry, after listening to you complain all day, no one thinks you’re a nurse. We wouldn’t want you anyway even if you were.”

    Stopped that right in its tracks.

  7. Yeah, I know it’s pissy of me. The difference being I say it on my blog and suck it up the rest of the time. Same as you on your blog, this is my space to vent.

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