I have often spoken of my experience working in a very busy hospital in the Niger Delta, where I was the only female doctor. My MD was a very intellectual man. He would drill us on every patient we were managing, during the morning rounds. If he felt you were giving less than your best, he would give you a tongue-lashing in the presence of patients, nurses, and all.
Now, as medical students, we were trained to accept such criticism humbly, and even thankfully. The belief is that the privilege of holding human life in your hands, does not come lightly. You should be thick-skinned enough to handle verbal abuse. Even when we qualify as doctors, our superiors still have the right to come down hard on us. I’m not sure how many other professions encourage this.
One day, I was in the consulting room, when a young lady of 20-22 years was shown in. She was really pretty and shapely. Her complaints were, Mucoid and bloody dischage and vaginal bleeding. I later found out that she had post-coital and inter- mentrual bleeding. That means that she bled after intercourse, and in between her periods. I concluded that she had either cervicitis or early stage cervical cancer. Without alarming her, I asked her to go for some tests. Particularly, she was to do a pap’s smear. I also told her to abstain for a while and bring in her partners for tests.
The next day, I was summoned to the MD’s office. I was surprised to see her sitting there, looking worried.
“Come in, Dr. N”, he called when I opened the door. “Are you the one who sent this young lady for these tests?”
I took the sheet of paper he was extending to me.
“Yes sir” I replied.
“You sent her to the government-run laboratory? “, he smirked. “They are laughing at you!”
“How can you send such a young girl for this test? Your diagnosis is wrong! See how you made a fool of yourself! “, he ranted.
“I don’t understand…..” I stammered.
“How can you not get your facts right? Leave my office! I just called you to tell you how you messed up”
Crest-fallen, I left. I was fuming inside all day. Why was I not allowed to defend myself? For whose benefit was this show? I had not given her any medication. How harmless could a non-invasive test be? I went home mad in my spirit. There was no way I was going to let him get away with it. I prayed and decided to confront him.
Though I didn’t want to be fired, I couldn’t take it any longer. I had worked with him for a year and proven myself. Letting him talk to me that way, would open the door for far worse. I didn’t want to blow up in front of his staff.The next morning, I was very calm as I knocked on his door. I had downloaded on my laptop, current information about her symptoms. That way, he wouldn’t say I relied on old textbooks. He let me in and smiled.
“Sir, I have something I want you to read”, I began.
“What is that?”, he asked.
“Just something I downloaded”
“Tell me what it is”
“It’s all about Cervical cancer, HPV, Cervicitis and more”
“Is it because of yesterday? Forget about it, now”,he cajoled.
“Sir, you traumatized me. I didn’t sleep or eat yesterday because I was so embarrassed”, I joked.
“O! Pity about that”, he evaded.
“You have to make it up to me. The only way I will be pacified is if you buy my lunch today”
He laughed. “Lunch? Is that all?”
He rang for his personal assistant and ordered her to buy me whatever I wanted for lunch. I left with a smirk. That was the only apology I was going to get but, he would think twice before calling me out again.
“Wetin you do wey oga dey buy food for you?”, his assistant asked.
I mean, it was unheard of that he would release a penny. I winked at her and held my tongue. Now, it has always been my ambition to have a great reputation where I work. I work hard, complain as little as possible, give extra, and try to be humble and courteous. This is particularly because, females tend to have a bad rap in the work place, as being obnoxious and lazy.
However, there comes a time, when you have to speak up for your rights. You can’t be a footmat. If you have established that you have a good work ethic and get along with others, you don’t have to be ashamed to say, “No, I won’t take that!”. Some people are just waiting for you to lose your temper. As a Christian, I advise that you delay responding till you are calm and have mapped out a strategy that is win-win for all involved.
For instance, I could have engaged him before the patient, told him off, and quit. He would lose face, I would lose my job, and the patient would lose confidence in both of us. By going back later to correct him in private, I gave him the chance to call her back and do the right thing, without feeling ashamed. Yes, she may doubt my capability in future but, that is a small price to pay, I think.
So, dear muses, you may be well within your rights but, choose your fights wisely. Till date, I am one of the few who have worked for him, that he speaks well off. Many bosses have the power to destroy your credibility when someone calls them for your referral.
On another note, if you are sexually active, you want to protect yourself from STDs. Particularly prone, are those with multiple partners. You might want to try abstinence or being faithful to your spouse. It may save your life.
Cheers, Dr. N.