Gjerberg E, Kjølsrød L. The doctor-nurse relationship: How easy is it to be a female doctor co-operating with a female nurse

ArticleinSocial Science & Medicine 52(2):189-202 · February 2001with44 Reads
Impact Factor: 2.89 · DOI: 10.1016/S0277-9536(00)00219-7 · Source: PubMed


    The doctor-nurse relationship has traditionally been a man-woman relationship. However, in recent years, the number of women studying medicine has increased in all West-European countries, and in 1997, 29% of active Norwegian doctors were women. The doctor-nurse relationship has often been described as a dominant-subservient relationship with a clear understanding that the doctor is a man and the nurse is a woman. This article examines what happens to the doctor-nurse relationship when both are women: how do female doctors experience their relationship to female nurses? It is based on two sets of data, qualitative interviews with 15 doctors and a nationwide survey of 3589 doctors. The results show that in the experience of many doctors, male and female, the doctor-nurse relationship is influenced by the doctor's gender. Female doctors often find that they are met with less respect and confidence and are given less help than their male colleagues. The doctors' own interpretation of this is partly that the nurses' wish to reduce status differences between the two groups affects female doctors more than male, and partly that there is an "erotic game" taking place between male doctors and female nurses. In order to tackle the experience of differential treatment, the strategies chosen by female doctors include doing as much as possible themselves and making friends with the nurses. The results are considered in light of structural changes both in society at large and within the health services, with emphasis on the recent convergence of status between the two occupational groups.