Most of the residents on call that night were women, and it was a very bad night, multiple disasters at the same time. Towards morning, a couple of us were standing in the hallway, in between ICU errands, propping up the walls and playing one-up: whose disaster was the worst. One of the older nurses walked by, one of my favorites (her name and her face remind me of one of my aunts); she saw how tired we were.

“You doctors don’t get enough credit,” she said. We figured she had to be joking – what nurse would say that out loud to residents? but she went on. “It takes some special drive to do what you do. We nurses complain sometimes, but when was the last time any of you worked a 40 hour week?” We nodded slowly, realizing that she was serious. “When I was young, getting out of school, there were no female doctors. It couldn’t be done. It really was the old boys’ club. Good for you.” And she disappeared down the stairs.

I turned to the other residents. “Maybe we should have let the old boys keep their club, and we could be sleeping.”

Sarcasm aside, I can’t believe she actually said that to us. Maybe there’s hope for relations between senior nurses and female surgeons.

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