Seattle Plastic Surgeon discusses why she cannot guarantee an all female surgical team.
Recently a prospective patient contacted me and wanted to know if I could guarantee and all female surgical staff. If I could not guarantee this, she would seek care with another doctor. Well, that’s one I had to let go. You see, I cannot guarantee an all female staff because our operating team has one female surgeon (moi), one male surgeon, two female nurses, one male nurse, two female surgical techs, two male anesthesiologists and one female anesthesiologist. It may be logistically possible to request that a female only crew staff the operating room on any given day but what if our female anesthesiologist has to stay home with a sick child or if one of the female nurses is needed to assist my male associate at another surgical facility that day? Do we cancel the surgery? Do we scramble to find a fill in? Do we call a temp agency and say “send us someone, anyone, with two X chromosomes.”
And then there are the employment laws. I cannot not discriminate based on gender or even on gender identity. I have to give equal consideration to a male nurse, a female nurse with a unibrow and soul patch, and a cross dressing nurse of either gender. You see, the gender or gender identity is not of consequence for taking good care of patients. As long as an individual is professional and competent, a patient’s discomfort with a particular gender is (well, sorry about this), the patient’s problem.
Believe me, I have been on both ends of patient discomfort many times. I trained in surgery in the 80’s when women surgeons were a bit on an oddity. And I did my general surgery training in Utah. I distinctly remember during one of my rotations in the surgical intensive care unit helping the nurses with an elderly Mormon gentleman who was crashing fast. I was cleaning his pubic area in preparation to insert a catheter into his bladder. He looked at me and said “Dr. Sowder, I’ll give you 20 minutes to stop that.” I’ll never forget this nice man’s little joke and how it relieved my discomfort.
So, no I cannot guarantee an all female surgical team. But I can guarantee a team of professionals who come to work every day wanting to make your surgical experience as comfortable and pleasant as possible. And if anyone feels a little embarrassed, don’t take it personally. We won’t.
Thanks for reading! Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder