Gender Roles in the ER

On Sunday Laylee was in agony-induced meltdown mode over a sore neck which got more and more stiff as the day wore on. By noon she was unable to turn her head at all and sobbing every time we moved her an inch. Worried that the stiff neck might be indicative of the big scary M-word and unsure whether or not she had a fever as she’d been wearing a huge parka all day, we decided to take her in to Urgent Care on the way home from church. We called ahead and they said that we should take her straight to the ER.

I guess the urgent care doesn’t mess around with sudden onset neck pain in young children.

So we settled in for a nice long wait in an ER exam room full of sharps containers and other biohazards. Magoo was in heaven. Laylee laid perfectly still in the hospital bed while Dan spun Magoo on the wheely chair and sang hundreds of verses of Down By the Bay. I offered moral support, relieved Dan’s strained singing voice with my MP3-playing phone and occasionally threw peanuts at the children.

After an hour of waiting, we had a short visit from a female nurse who told us the doctor would be in shortly. The ER was fairly quiet besides the muffled conversations of the staff who seemed to be in no kind of hurry at all.

After our second hour of waiting, I commented on the lack of carnage I’d seen and told Dan that this hospital was nothing like the ones on ER or Grey’s Anatomy. Magoo commented on GOOOO HOOOME NOW AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!

Dan said that for all we knew it was exactly like the TV drama hospitals and the reason we were waiting so long to see a doctor was because they were all in supply closets somewhere making out. He had a good point.

Eventually a man wearing a lab coat came in and briefly examined Laylee without introducing himself. He diagnosed her with Wry Neck or a sudden unexplained neck pain. Nice. I probably could have called that one. He prescribed an ice pack and children’s Motrin, which was then administered by a nurse. I wonder how much it costs to have your Motrin administered by a nurse in the ER as a cure for Wry Neck. Hopefully I’ll never find out.

There were a couple of strange things about our visit that the feminist in me cannot let go. First, the hospital staff went out of their way to ignore Dan’s presence in the room and only make eye contact with and speak directly to me. Never mind that he’s her father, that he was the one who’d been taking care of her all day, the one who had checked her in at the front desk while I was parking the car or that my hands were full when they brought in her release papers to be signed. They stepped right past Dan and handed me the clipboard, turning their back to him and explaining everything to the mother. I’m not normally sensitive to this kind of thing but it was really obvious.

Obviously as the mother and nurturer, I am the only one who can understand how to squeeze a dropper of Ibuprofen into her mouth. I mean if fathers could do that, then we might expect them to start periodically changing diapers and eventually women might begin to feel superior and demand the right to vote or something.

Secondly, when we looked over her release papers, we saw that the “doctor” they’d sent in was really a male nurse. So it seems that the female nurse had looked at Laylee, determined that calling a doctor was unnecessary, but hoped we wouldn’t ask questions when she called in a man in uniform, told us a doctor was on his way and sent in a male nurse wearing a lab coat.

Now it’s possible that all the doctors and interns were “busy” “getting” “supplies” and since she was fairly sure that nothing was wrong, she called in the senior grand poobah nurse (who happened to be male) and asked him to come have a look. It just looked fishy, especially in an ER where caring for children is considered solely women’s work.

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