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Reverting to 'type'

(10 Posts)
Abra1d Sat 15-Jun-13 09:13:09

Last week I had to undergo a fairly unpleasant medical procedure, following a day- and-a-half's fasting while taking something to clear out my digestive system. This is just background explaining what then happened. I was very late to be treated and feeling tired and weak. A nice woman introduced herself as the nurse practitioner who'd be looking after me. We went into the treatment room and I saw a man in scrubs sitting at a computer screen. 'Oh there's the doctor,' I thought blush.

The nurse practitioner then highly competently carried out the procedure, discovering something potentially serious. She was great.

I was trying to work out what went through my mind when I made those assumptions about who was 'in charge' and can only assume that my weakened state of mind, owing to the fasting and unpleasant preparations for the procedure made me revert to some preconceived type-casting: the man's in charge and the nice lady will be assisting him.

Triumphoveradversity Sat 15-Jun-13 09:20:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Abra1d Sat 15-Jun-13 09:24:10

Thanks, Triumph. Yes, it's conditioning. In the last three occasions when I've had the procedure it's been a male consultant doing it and I suppose I just subconsciously made assumptions.

ChunkyPickle Sat 15-Jun-13 10:20:15

Conditioning, plus in this country the concept of 'Nurse Practitioner' is still pretty new (to me at least) so you hear 'Nurse' and assume assistant.

Perhaps a different name would have made the social conditioning less strong - I seem to remember from my memory of TV rubbish (from ER blush) that there was a role "Physician's assistant" which seems to be a similar role (does some procedures, can prescribe, but isn't a full doctor).

Abra1d Sat 15-Jun-13 11:08:36

Yes, NP is pretty new, I guess. It makes a lot of sense that these professionals take on more of the procedures that doctors used once to carry out. I think the very good ones also bring some of their nursing skills with them: that empathy and care (not saying doctors don't have these too).

LeBFG Sat 15-Jun-13 14:15:47

These sorts of gender stereotypes are pervasive and part-and-parcel of our culture (unfortuantely). You (and me and all of us) probably hold a lot of these stereotypes unconciously. I wonder if it's evolved from a need to categorise quickly/easily?

Don't beat yourself up OP - it's a positive thing you identified the stereotype. Are you sure it wasn't the clothes that misguided you? Often the greeting/talky person in the room is the nurse while the serious one in scrubs is the doctor.

Abra1d Sat 15-Jun-13 14:43:39

They were all dressed fairly similarly and I suppose the fact that the NP was very chatty and hands-on made me think she might not be 'in-charge'. grin She was very calmly professional, though, and her team were lovely, too. Obviously a good manager.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sat 15-Jun-13 14:46:56

It is conditioning, but a lot of subtle power indicators were working against you too.

In our society, if one person welcomes and shows you into the room and another is waiting there, the person in the room is normally the most senior. This applies when you are shown into the office of a professional in an office environment (e.g. a lawyer), a doctor and quite a few other settings. If the person waiting in the room is more junior, there is normally a direct indication of that. Either because that person is carrying out menial duties - for example in an office laying out papers, pouring tea, etc. Or that the person is introduced as such - this is X, he's a trainee Y.

Also, scrubs, although more widely worn these days, are still highly associated with surgery. And the status of surgery in our minds (given its historical place in medicine) is pretty elevated in terms of the seniority of those involved.

I think that there is a reasonable chance you'd have assumed that the person in the chair was the doctor whether that person was male or female.

Hope your health problems are sorted soon.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sat 15-Jun-13 14:47:19

Sorry, cross post.

Abra1d Sat 15-Jun-13 14:56:16

All very interesting to reflect on and thanks for the good wishes.

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