Before “Sorry,” Think

From Brave Enough

“We as women have to stop saying “I’m sorry” for things out of our control. When we apologize for things we are not responsible for, we take a step backwards in the advancement of women in the workplace.

I am a cardiac anesthesiologist, which means I care for patients who are undergoing open-heart surgery. I work in an academic medical center and train doctors to become anesthesiologists. The operating room (OR) can be a high-stress environment, not to mention costly. As members of the OR team, we try to be extremely efficient with our time.

The very nature of what we do presents challenges, as our patients are critically ill and often times our plans do not go as anticipated. Difficulty in placing lines in our patients that allow us to give medicine and transfusions, challenges in airway procedures, or patients who are unstable under anesthesia are all equal opportunity tests that present themselves to both men and women resident physicians under my supervision.

However, there is something interesting that I have observed when watching residents. Male resident physicians, when faced with challenging procedures, rarely apologize for things outside of their control, appropriately so. While nurses and surgeons are standing in the OR waiting for our team to finish so we can start the surgery, you won’t hear a male resident say “I’m sorry.” Why? Because it is not his fault.

This scenario often plays out differently for female residents. While placing difficult lines or breathing for a sick patient, it is not uncommon to hear female resident physicians look at everyone in the room and say “I’m sorry.”

Every time this happens, I cringe.”

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