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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

I'm female and I'm a doctor - so what?

The above is exactly what I thought when I started medical school.  I was made aware of the Medical Women's Federation (MWF) and a lot of the issues relating to female doctors seemed quite distant to me; maternity leave... child care... Naively, I thought this was all that mattered when it came to the fact that I happen to be a girl, and frankly, was so far from my thoughts that I thought no more about the fact that I had ovaries and wore make up from time to time.

Then I read a BMJ article saying that there was a 28.6% pay gap between male and female doctors - what?! There is more to this than pure numbers, but the disparities don't stop there.  There are specialties with a particular lack of oestrogen, perhaps surgery being the most well known, but I was also alarmed to read that amongst medical academics (which I would love to count myself among one day) nearly a quarter struggle to return to work, whereas in comparison most men go to a new or promoted position after a career break.

What on earth is going on - did I miss something or are we still stuck in the last century?

I thought about my own (limited) experience as a doctor, and the advice handed down to me about where my career should go.  And it all became clear.

Discrimination feels like it should be really obvious, and that it can't possibly happen because it is so taboo these days.  And yes, sometimes it is subtle.  But often it is so obvious, I feel embarrassed that I haven't said something.  I've had comments about how I look from male senior doctors who have subsequently turned it into a team joke, and banter from another colleague when patients think I'm a member of secretarial staff (no offence intended to the secretarial staff - I just think said patients might find it a bit weird if they then witness me putting up drips, doing ward rounds with patient examinations and prescribing medicines...).  Most career advice I have been given has come with the heavy caveat about the fact I'm unlikely to pursue XYZ career because I'm a girl and off I'll run to have babies.  At the time, these little digs seem so unimportant - it is easy to laugh it off - and you don't want to seem weak and whiny by kicking up a fuss about something that's 'just a joke'.  Because sometimes it is.  And I'm sure any of the chaps I have worked with would be absolutely mortified to think they had caused offence because I'm a girl, or frankly just think it's silly banter.

But do these little chips and inferences eat away, gradually, at women? I don't know if I want to laugh these sorts of jokes off forever.  Heaven forbid I actually do have children one day and then I dread getting a whole other round of 'oh, typical, off you go, leaving us with another gap in the rota...'  And I think if you are told something enough times, you end up feeling like you either have to join the club and become almost masculine about the whole thing, or walk away completely.  That's how women stay away from the board room of many a hospital - it's just not worth the argument.

I'd like to think we can meet somewhere in the middle.  First of all, I refuse to fit the leadership stereotype of stampeding to the front, telling everyone I'm the boss and that anyone who dares to disagree with me is a fool.  I'm going to do it my way, and be an inclusive leader wherever I work.  Maybe that is a 'girlie' way of doing things, but hey - I'm a girl!

And I certainly don't want there to be an end to the fun and jokes on the ward.  But I don't desperately want my legacy to be 'that tall blonde doctor' (which was the latest 'joke' I got to enjoy at my own expense).  No, it's not a compliment. Just maybe check now and again that your jokes aren't stepping over the line, and I'll make it my job to tell you that the line has been crossed.

Maybe I'll feel differently if I'm ever lucky enough to have babies, but for now, that would be enough.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Recent training...

Oxford morning running...

More Oxford morning running...

Bradford-on-Avon --> Winsley running

Oxford Town-Gown 10k running...
With only two weeks to go til our team triathlon starts, we would be ever grateful for your support!

Today a bunch of us ran the Oxford town/gown 10k; a little warmer than we would have liked, and inevitably I brought up the rear, but nonetheless with two weeks between me and a half marathon I was pleased to make it round in less than an hour (just!)

I will post more blog-appropriate things soon, but in the mean time, if you've got some pennies going spare, consider giving them to


K xxx