Doctors come together to make the gender gap visible in pain medicine

By Samantha Anaya / Doc Zone

Within the field of health, the specialty in palliative and pain medicine is responsible for providing relief from the symptoms and stress generated by serious diseases. This specialty focuses on the care of patients with physical limitations who may have a life-threatening condition or, whose illness may be prolonged for a long time; also takes care of recovering patients.

However, as Dr. Sol Urbina Gutierrezmedical anesthesiologist and specialist in palliative and pain medicine, this area of ​​health is often unknown by peopleeven, by his colleagues.

Dr. Sol Urbina is particularly concerned about this situation, because throughout her career, she has identified that this determines, on the one hand, the visibility and scope of this specialty and, on the other, the scope and positive repercussion that this could (or could not) have in the lives of many female patients with a serious illness.

And it is that, with the passage of time, learned that female patients who are cared for by a female doctor -also a woman- have a better quality of life and a more bearable treatment, in contrast to patients who are attended by doctors -men-.

For these two main reasons, she, together 36 other doctors with this same specialty, have decided to join and organize themselves to make their specialty visibleas well as to support each other and provide better patient care.

The doctors who have joined this network are specialists who have practiced their work for years, some more are recent graduates of the medical degree and others are still in the process of academic training.

Most of them are in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Areaalthough they have also joined from different states of the Republic, such as: Zacatecas, Sonora, San Luis Potosí, Michoacán, Colima, Guanajuato, Yucatán, Mexico City, State of Mexico, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Sinaloa, Baja California, Nuevo León, “and little by little all the states are being covered.”

The initiative to unite as women and specialists began to take shape since last March 1. One of the causes that led them to organize and work together was the health emergency due to COVID-19, since, according to Sol Urbina, the crisis contributed to making visible the overload of care work, especially for womenas well as the limitations that arose in patient care.

According to Dr. Urbina, the main barrier they identify is that there are not enough specialists in palliative medicine in public health facilities.

To this is added that the specialty as such is not known and, therefore, Places within the public health system are not prioritized.

Recently, within the private health system, work places for male and female doctors with this specialty began to be offered; This has been the result of the sum of their demands, but there is still pending work with the public sector: “The public health system does not give you the security of having a fixed salary, or stability, that’s why we look for private spaces.”

Added to this, for palliative physicians, gender gaps are added: “Sometimes, they prefer to hire doctors, because for us they always consider things like whether we already have children, whether we want to have more or whether we plan to get married, questions that obviously they don’t ask men.”

The specialist shares her own experience. She remembers that on one occasion when she went to apply for a job, and she was 7 months pregnant, the position was denied, even though she met the profile and presented all the documentation requested.

“Since this type of different treatment between men and women still exists, the only way to overcome this violence is if we organize and support each other.”

How did this initiative come about?

Dr. Urbina remembers that these questions came to her after reading an investigation that investigated the gender perspective in medicine. The text, she warned that patients cared for by female physicians have a more favorable prognosis in comparison with those that receive the accompaniment of male doctors. The case raised referred to cardiology, however, explains the doctor, it could be applicable to any other specialty, including hers.

From this questioning came others, he acknowledges, such as the cultural impact of machismo and misogyny in the medical practice of palliative care and pain medicine and, therefore, in the health of patients. With these ideas in mind contacted other doctors to organize, link up and start generating spaces as specialists in this area of ​​medicine from a gender perspective.

“Create a space by and for us”

The idea of ​​forming an organization of palliative medical women Its initial objective is to create a space for growth and support that contributes to generate conditions in the professional, personal and work environment of its members.

Dr. Urbina assures that palliative care areas are directed mostly by men, so, They seek to make visible the work and participation they have in the medical field.

The specialists have organized themselves to identify the areas of your profession where biases, gaps and gender-based violence are experienced. In such a way that, from their experiences, they consider it a priority to anticipate these practices to supporting female doctors who have just graduated from medical degrees, prior to entering the professional field:

“When I graduated, it was very difficult for me, because I didn’t even know where to start. Now, in this specialty it is even more complicated, because there are not many vacancies, those who can refer patients are doctors close to them, so that is why I think it is important to support the doctors who are just graduating, and those of us who have already been in this work, we can provide them with opportunities, networks and support”.

The work of caregivers

In Mexico, the 87% of care work is carried out by womenY “In the cases in which it is a man who takes charge of this work, it is because there is no one else to do it”says Dr. Urbina.

The specialist adds that it is important to identify this problem of inequality within care workwhich is nothing new.

speaking of care work highlights that these are not recognized as workTherefore, they are not paid, which means that the personal and professional life project of women caregivers is truncated.

“Culturally, the belief that care work only corresponds to women is followed. Women provide at least 8 hours a day to care work, not only when talking about sick patients, but also to parenting, home care, and this is not recognized and, therefore, is not paid, on the contrary , this overexploration is normalized”.

The specialist exemplifies this gender violence with what happens in Argentina. In this country, three out of four girls and adolescents classified as “Ninis”, but in reality they work as caregivers. This situation in Argentina, “transferred to Mexico is nothing different”.

From this context, specialists in pain medicine intend to create an impact within the medical field, for patients and their families. Although they recognize that one of their main actions must be aimed at make palliative care physicians aware of appropriate treatment and care for patients, always from a gender perspective.


This content was originally published by Doc Zone: pain/