April 11, 2021

Saray Herrera Herrera: “It is difficult for the elderly patient to see women as a doctor”



How have you had to face such a serious health crisis without even finishing your medical studies?

Due to the pandemic, the practices this year touched only one service. They assigned me to the ICU of the Insular University Hospital of Gran Canaria and I had to make them divided, two weeks before Christmas, another two in January, I stopped for the exams and then I returned. I got the box that was not Covid, because the students are not put in the risk zone, although they taught us to put on PPE -protective equipment- and every morning we attend the clinical session and listen to each case, but we never entered the Covid zone. What did happen is that after Christmas, as infections increased a lot on the Island, the patients who stopped testing positive in the PCR, that is, after two negative PCRs and with negative serology, seeing that they already had the antibodies and that they had no active infection, at that moment they went to the box where I was.

What has your training consisted of in this context?

Above all, what I have seen is the postcovid treatment, all the sequelae that are left at the beginning by patients who have suffered the infection in its most serious manifestation. Above all, it was very difficult for them to go from being intubated and having a machine breathe for them, to breathing alone, then they had atrophied muscles because they had been lying still for 15 or more days, it was difficult for them to move, it hurt a lot.

What has this experience given you as a future doctor?

It is a harsh reality, not only with older patients, I also saw young patients, in their 40s, in bed, unable to move. It is very hard to watch the extubation process until the patient can breathe alone, as they woke up from sedation and tried to breathe on their own and could not. I try to put myself in their role, see you suddenly in a bed without being able to move, without being able to breathe, and feeling very lonely because in ICU you don’t even have a partner in the bed next to you. I think that this experience has helped me a lot for tomorrow to try to be closer to the patients, to put myself in their place, not only that they leave the ICU, but that they do the best possible, physically and psychologically.

From the point of view of women, have you lived or seen any sexist experience in the health field?

Yes, machismo still exists and it shows. It is true that it is changing, but there is still a lot of machismo on the part of patients, especially the elderly, it is difficult for them to see women as doctors. In the services in which I have rotated, patients from 60 years of age always think that the woman is the nurse and that the man who accompanies her is the doctor. I had internships with a colleague who is very tall and seems older than he is, and the medical assistant we were with was of average height, and they always called him a doctor. It is something that we colleagues talk about and it happens a lot, there is still that mentality that the nurse is a woman and the man is the doctor. I saw it quite a bit in Internal Medicine. However, I have not seen that machismo among the health workers and my colleagues.

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