It’s no secret that the healthcare system in Nigeria is already in the pits. From underpaid professionals to lack of basic facilities. Today, 6 Nigerian women shared with me the challenges they encounter working in healthcare.
The sexual harassment in my workspace is on another level. My boss was always asking for a kiss. He’d find every opportunity to touch me. Whenever I turn him down, his attitude would change. This man insisted that he loves me but he was like this with all the female workers. I tried to manage the situation but I couldn’t cope. Ended up quitting that job.
I receive sexual advances from patients, their relatives and even my colleagues. Sometimes, I am ignored during rounds by patients because they do not see me as a doctor. I also hate that people automatically expect me to pick the less difficult part of medicine. If I say I want to major in trauma surgery or something more demanding, everyone goes “oh, but won’t that be too difficult for you as a woman?” “How would your husband cope?” and all sorts of ridiculous excuses.
Also, the Dr Mrs xx thing is really irritating. Just call me Dr xx, period.
The healthcare space is a reflection of Nigeria as a country. Women are being undermined at every level. From employers who try to police your womb, who insist you mustn’t get pregnant in the first few years on the job to colleagues who claim you’re overreacting when you call them out for crossing personal boundaries or being verbally or sexually abusive. I have patients who refused to respect my treatment because they need a male doctor or those who call me aunty nurse even when I correct them.
A patient’s relative said I didn’t deserve to talk to him because I was an unmarried woman. The assumption is that I cannot handle certain situations because of my marital status. As a professional nurse, I have encountered people who think being a woman means you know less about your job than your male counterparts. Some outrightly express shock when I do my job like “wow, you really can do this.” Sir/ma’am, I was trained to do this. People just expect less from me and I keep beating their imagination.
I have patients who ask if I am a “real doctor” and then proceed to treat my advice with disdain because I don’t have a penis. Older nursers are harsher to me and the other female doctors. A patient at the emergency once told me that needed help getting his drugs and I told him to ask the attendant. He became angry and started shouting that why would I refuse to go on his errand.
One time, a senior colleague who was fond of making very inappropriate sexual jokes asked me to get him a bottle of coke. When I gave it to him, he mentioned that Yoruba women kneel down to give men things and I should have done that. I told him I wasn’t Yoruba and it didn’t apply to my culture. This man made a show of calling me disrespectful.
I almost got beaten up by a patient’s relative who barged into the consulting room because he claimed I was spending too much time with another patient (whom I was counseling because he just got a diagnosis of prostate cancer).
The angry man said, “the doctor keeping us waiting is even a woman” with so much disgust. A medical student had to run out to get the security guard and a SERVICOM officer who took him out of the room despite his struggles and loud shout about how he would beat me blue-black.
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