Viewpoint: How scrubs reinforce sexist double standards

As hospitals relax their dress codes to pre-pandemic standards across the country, female physicians are preparing for a return of appearance-related sexism, according to an Oct. 16 opinion piece in The Atlantic by Trisha Pasricha, MD. 

Dr. Pasricha, a contributing writer at The Washington Post and a gastroenterology research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, began her commentary by recounting an experience of misidentification with a patient. 

"When I entered the room, I had introduced myself as the doctor," she wrote. "I had also just explained, in great detail, a highly specialized procedure…He still assumed I was a nurse, or a medical technician, or a physician assistant—anything but a doctor, especially his doctor."

Dr. Pasricha wrote that the experience she described is just one example of how the pandemic "sparked the tinderbox" of gender inequity in healthcare. 

Dr. Pasricha went on to cite exhaustive research on gender inequities in healthcare, including a July 30 Journal of the American Medical Association study that found patients were about 20 percent less likely to assume that a woman wearing scrubs was a surgeon, compared with men. The study also found that patients consider a woman in scrubs to be "less professional" than a man in the same outfit.

"It’s about time we all recognized that male and female physicians are cut from the same cloth," Dr. Pasricha wrote.

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