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Doctor You’re Here To Give Patients The Best Possible Care, Not To Judge Them!

Maya could see Seema’s discomfort and frustration and couldn’t take it anymore, “Excuse me, Doctor,” she interjected, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk to a patient like that."

The sun blazed down on the streets, turning the city into an oven. The sky was a hazy shade of blue, and the air thick with heat. The parched trees and dusty buildings added to the arid feeling, with the occasional gust of hot wind offering no respite. Not a soul was to be seen on the road, but the only government hospital in Jaipur bustled with patients and their families.

Maya, a twenty-two-year-old nurse from the nearby village of Sanganer, was assisting Dr Sinha in the Gynaecology OPD. “There is a time for everything. It is too late to have a child at your age,” the doctor said to the thirty-six-year-old woman who was getting up from the stool beside him. “No wonder you are facing complications.”

Maya saw the colour drain out of the woman’s face even as the latter’s considerably older husband remained silent.

“Next,” Dr Sinha bellowed even before the couple left the room.

Maya stood by the doctor’s side as a woman who appeared to be the same age as she walked in. She was alone.

“Yes, Seema,” the doctor said, looking down at the brown file on the table before him. “What is your problem?”

“I…uhh…I am a month pregnant and have come to see you for a regular checkup. This is my first pregnancy, and I want to ensure everything goes fine.” Seema’s eyes twinkled.

“Why did you decide to have a child at such a young age, Seema?” Dr Sinha asked the patient, one eyebrow raised.

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Seema looked shocked but hesitantly replied, “I wanted to be a mother soon after marriage, Doctor.”

The middle-aged doctor shook his head. “You should have focused on looking after your household rather than burdening yourself and your family at this age.”

“But my family wanted it more than me,” Seema said.

Maya could see Seema’s discomfort and frustration and couldn’t take it anymore, “Excuse me, Doctor,” she interjected, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk to a patient like that. Seema is an adult and capable of making her own decisions. Our duty is to provide her with the best care possible and not to judge her for her choices.”

Dr Sinha, not used to being challenged by a nurse—let alone a young one — blinked at Maya. He scoffed, “I have seen far too many young women like Seema who regret their choices later in life. I am just trying to make her realise her mistake.”

Maya stood her ground, “We need to be more sensitive towards our patients. Especially women. They already face enough barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare. It’s not our place to impose our beliefs on our patients, Doctor. As healthcare providers, our only duty is to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for them.”

“How dare you answer me back? Please remain quiet for the rest of the examination. I know more than you and will not have a nurse disturb me in my work.”

Maya felt sad till she glanced at the patient. Seema was looking gratefully at her. Maya then felt happy to have stood up for a fellow woman.

After the examination was over and Maya was helping Seema get dressed, the latter whispered, “Thank you for speaking up for me. I felt embarrassed by what the doctor said, but your words gave me strength.”

Maya smiled and held Seema’s hand. “I understand what you are going through. We are here to help.”

Seema went her way and Maya got busy with other patients. Later in the day, the hospital superintendent, Dr Gupta, called Maya into his office. Maya entered his cabin with trepidation, bracing herself for a reprimand for speaking out of turn.

“Maya, I heard what happened in the Gynaecology OPD today. I would like to commend you for standing up for the patient and advocating for a safe environment for women.”

Maya’s mouth opened and closed. No words came out.

Dr Gupta continued, “We need more people like you in the healthcare system. Women in our country face numerous barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare, and we need to work towards breaking down those barriers. I want you to start and lead a committee at our hospital that promotes gender sensitivity and creates a safe and supportive environment for patients and their families. Will you take this up?”

“I…oh…yes. Thank you, Doctor.” Maya was thrilled. Being from a rural place, she had seen first-hand the challenges women faced in accessing medical care owing to the patriarchal mindset and gender biases. This was her opportunity to do something to make a difference in the lives of women in her community.

She took on the new role with full enthusiasm. Her off-duty hours were consumed in conceptualising and developing a training programme for doctors and nurses on gender sensitivity and medical ethics. She also put efforts towards improving the hospital’s physical environment, making it more welcoming and accessible to women.

During one of the training sessions, Maya invited Dr Sinha to share his thoughts on women and their health. “Women don’t know how to take care of their bodies,” he said during his talk.

Maya took a deep breath. “I am sorry to interrupt you, Doctor. I understand you have a lot of experience, but what you just said is not acceptable. If we judge our patients, we will not be able to help them. Our job is to provide them with medical care, not advise them on making decisions.”

Dr Sinha started to say something when Dr Gupta interjected, “Maya is right. We are not here to judge anyone. Men or women, everyone should be treated with consideration and respect.”

Dr Sinha apologised, realising that he had been perpetuating gender bias through his words, and it was time to change.

Maya’s efforts led to a significant increase in the hospital’s footfall. With time, more women felt comfortable seeking medical care at the hospital where doctors spoke to them and not at them.

One day, Maya stood looking at her shift timings on the hospital notice board when a ward boy called out to her. “The patient in room three of the paediatrician ward is asking for you.” Surprised, Maya made her way to the paediatric department and was pleasantly surprised to come face to face with Seema.

Seema had given birth to a healthy baby boy. “Maya, I can’t thank you enough for standing up for me that day, almost nine months ago.” Seema gulped before resuming, “It was my first month of pregnancy, and I was feeling happy and confused at the same time. The doctor’s questions made me uncomfortable, but you made me feel seen and heard, and I will never forget that. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy today, and I feel grateful to you and the hospital staff for providing me with the care I needed.”

Maya struggled to hold back her tears while holding the newborn in her hands. Seema’s words reminded her why she had decided to become a nurse in the first place.

The setting sun cast a warm golden glow across the sky as Maya walked out of the hospital building that evening. The clouds were painted with shades of orange, pink, and purple. The buildings were silhouetted against the fading light as the city waited with bated breath for the upcoming night.

Maya felt satisfied as the gentle evening breeze caressed her skin. Seema’s compliment rang in her ears, and she felt proud of her work.

She had just started her career and had a long way to go to achieve her dream of making healthcare accessible to all women.

With the support of colleagues and the guidance of mentors like Dr Gupta, she was determined to foster a more gender-sensitive and equitable healthcare system to make a difference in the lives of other women like Seema.

Maya marched on, oblivious to the setting sun.

Editor’s note: Women regularly face #MedicalMisogyny from health care professionals. For the WHO World Health Day 2023 theme of ‘Health for All’, identifying this misogyny and ensuring #Equity in healthcare is essential. All of April, we have shared stories with you on this these, either personal stories or fiction. Find them all here.

Image source: a still from the film Dr G

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About the Author

Smita Das Jain

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...

25 Posts | 26,574 Views

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