And during the last years of my career when I held a position at the peak of the nursing power hierarchy, I recall being the target of a blatant abuse of power. I attended a meeting where a male physician rudely berated me in front of several other male doctors, two female physicians, the (male) hospital CEO, and four other community members who were also male. I responded to the bullyer that his remarks were inappropriate and unacceptable. Every man in the room suddenly focused his attention on the cell phone, tablet, or file in front of him.The next day it was reported to me that not a single male attendee had heard the physician’s remarks to me and had wondered why I’d been so upset. Both female physicians however, had heard every word but did not speak out. One of them approached me later to commiserate about how badly I’d been treated by all the men in the room. Why hadn’t she spoken up, I asked? Her response stunned me: “Barb, it’s hard enough to be a female doctor so I just keep my head down and try to stay out of conflict.”
Clearly, the complexion of hospitals and hospital nursing has changed significantly since I chose to become a nurse. I survived the system and enjoyed a fulfilling forty year long career in a variety of nursing positions and in a number of hospitals in Ontario. As opposed to my options in 1967, today’s women have unlimited career choices. Nursing is a risky choice. Would I choose nursing today? Probably not.
The author on Graduation Day