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A female doctor has spoken out about her experiences with sexual discrimination at work, and the struggle colleagues across the United States face.
Jennifer Tsai, an emergency medicine resident in New Haven, Conn, wrote a moving piece in the Washington Post, discussing the problems she faces as a female in the workplace.
Ms. Tsai is soon to oversee a group of medical students and expressed her worries over how to protect them from patients who refuse to be professional.
She said, “One thing is sure: I will tell them I have only one rule. I want to remind medical trainees — and those responsible for them — that their safety is not a burden or luxury, but a necessity. But as one person, I don’t know how I can possibly guarantee it.”
Tsai quoted an essay in the New England Journal of Medicine, which spoke of a hypothetical new class of medical students.
It said, “Imagine a medical-school dean addressing the incoming class with this demoralizing prediction: ‘Look at the woman to your left and then at the woman to your right. On average, one of them will be sexually harassed during the next 4 years, before she has even begun her career as a physician.’ ”
She added that “many” of her friends from medical school have stories of harassment, including patients making comments about race, weight, and looks.
It comes at a time when 1 in 5 surgeons plan to retire early due to the physical strain of surgeries. Healthcare experts say an increasing number of physicians across the U.S. are suffering from burnout, describing it as a public health crisis.
The doctor wrote about her time as a medical student and how one particular instance stood out.
She said, “We had spent only a few minutes together, but in that short time my patient had already assembled several lewd comments about how my body looked in loose blue scrubs, speculated about my sexual proclivities and compared me to women he had previously ‘enjoyed.’ He asked if I had a boyfriend, if I liked to have fun.”
The patient had come into the emergency department with back pain, so Tsai knew she had to check for sensation in his testicles.
She wrote that she did not want to leave her examination incomplete and run the risk of failing to receive an excellent letter of recommendation for the job she was interviewing for.
She also noted, “I told myself firmly that my discomfort should not take precedence over his clinical care.”
“I told my patient I was going to check for sensation in his groin. He grabbed my wrist and placed it on his penis. I twisted. He held my wrist down. I wrenched. He laughed.”
Tsai is not pictured with the article, which is essential to protect her not only in the workplace but in the digital world too, where physicians in the digital age have to manage themselves online.
It isn’t just patients that Ms. Tsai points out as the problem, however. She added that some supervising physicians were also well-known for demonstrating inappropriate behavior.
She added that a report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) reported that female medical students are 220% more likely to suffer sexual harassment than nonscience students.