Scape Off the Day: The Unwritten Rules For Women Medical Students

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Photo credit by Sarah Potter

Scrape Off The Day: The Unwritten Rules for Women Medical Students.

by T. Delaplain, MD
Always be more than prepared; know the common, the obscure, the zebras and the pearls.
Don’t be wrong; that’s a luxury.
Never flinch or duck; your male colleague will always see it.

Blend in but stand out.
Never cry; every tear will be made legend.

The stairwell is your holy sanctuary; use it, for you will break every rule, every day.
Stomp, rant, and rail against the sexism.
And then scrape the blood off your shoes, you earned it.

Tomorrow’s a new day.


Who’s shoes will you walk in? Rochelle will give you 100 words to decide. Join us at Friday Fictioneers

I’m celebrating my 30th medical school reunion this year and I’ll be meeting up with several of my colleagues. When I started medical school there were 11 women in my class of 50. I don’t think I truly appreciated how rare women medical students were then. Our medical school classes are 50-60% women now and we as a nation should be grateful for this equality. Woman make great physicians. But I don’t think we are completely past sexism in medical education and I’m certain that there will always be a student, an intern or an attending physician taking refuge and scraping off her day in the sanctuary of a hospital stairwell.

48 thoughts on “Scape Off the Day: The Unwritten Rules For Women Medical Students

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  1. Dear Tracey,

    I bristle when I tell someone something about what my doctor said or did and they say something like “why would he do that.” I will point out that my doctor that I’ve been seeing for over 20 years is a WOMAN! And SHE is brilliant! I loved this piece. Thank you for sharing it. BTW, there’s a female doctor in my third novel. 😉



    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brilliantly done, Doc!
    I am watching Season 3 of Outlander (ugh… after watching two seasons on Netflix, the weekly wait is horrid) and, of course, Claire is the only woman in her class… She will surely need these unwritten rules…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As the only female member of a management team for over twelve years, I feel the pain in this, Tracey. And suddenly remembered the first year after my appointment when one guy said he wouldn’t be going on the annual management team outing if I were going. I went. Hated it. Had to climb, abseil, ride horses and pee in the bushes. But I went every year after that… and he didn’t. 🙂 Job done.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. In my experience at a large corporate, men who are strong leaders and complimented for being firm and assertive. Women who do the same are called “bitches.” If she’s compassionate, she’s called “weak.”

    I’m glad there are more opportunities these days for my daughter and granddaughters. Hopeful, more men will put on their “big-boy” britches and accept women as equals.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dale, that is told so well and so dead-on accurate. “Never let them see you sweat” mentality… I hated it then, still do. ‘Never make mistakes’.. follows with first responder training, too. Great story.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Tracey, everyone else has said so much about your story I’ve only been able to like their comments and yours. Beautifully done.
    My 5’3″ sister became the head of the visitor’s center at Denali Park, worked her way up the ranks with kindness and the smarts our parents allowed all three of their daughters to acquire. She never mentioned being demeaned in any way (but she wouldn’t) and became the person every man and woman wanted “up front” when they road snow machines out to check cabins in the winter. She was the only one who could read the snow over the rivers and keep the team out of danger.
    I’m sorry you were ever called “Little Lady!”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. That sort of sexism is unbelievable, and I’m sure that if the victim dared complain about it, the bullying would get worse. They were talking on the radio the other day about sexism in Silicon City, despite the fact that it was women who did most of the groundwork with computers in the first place. Still, you would hope that doctors would be more caring towards their work colleagues, as they work in what’s meant to be a caring profession. My doctor is male and very caring, but he’s young and doubtless brought up with a non-sexist attitude towards women.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe he’s such an extreme example of misogyny and bullying that it might make many men with a tendency in that direction decide it’s not so attractive a trait and quickly mend their ways. …I know, I’m being idealistic but one can be forever hopeful.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a very powerful story. I loved the taking refuge in the stairwell. I’m glad you had that at least. Things are changing slowly, painfully slow. This story made me think about the announcement this week that the Marine Corp had it’s first female graduate from their Infantry Officer Course. I can’t image what she went through and what she will suffer in her career.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah, Tracey this is so well written – angry but with such controlled, scalpel like bite to it.
    I’ve never experienced the extremes of sexism you have in my work (being in a female-led job anyway) but when I worked in one shop and customers came in to complain, shouting, sometimes swearing at me for aomething that wasn’t my fault, I found it telling that they would calm down in the face of the owner – a man! Alright to shout at the little serving girl, but the boss man gains more respect. Told me all I needed to know about that person.
    Most of my GPs have been women and most have been wonderful, including my current doc who diagnosed a condition in me that had been overlooked by many male doctors for over a decade, no matter how many times I returned to tell them something was wrong.
    And please tell me about zebras and pearls! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zebras are very rare conditions, usually thrown out by the medical students that read about every possible diagnosis. Of course you are more likely to find an orginary horse than a zebra. And pearls are snippets of wisdom that usually make the diagnosis. Usually passed down during teaching moments. As in, “Never forget that patients with diphtheria, smell like a wet mouse.” I’ve never seen diphtheria but I’ll always remember that pearl. Part of our secret language of medicine I guess. Thanks for asking. You are always so good at explaining the cultural idioms you occasionally use. I’m always learning something new from you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! This is amazing – I love that. Makes perfect sense now you’ve explained it and I can just see the over eager student reaching for an exotic answer to a more mundane condition. A really thoughtful, passionate and informative piece.

        Liked by 1 person

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