Imagine you’re a young woman who has worked for years to qualify as a doctor.
You’ve always been top of your class, considered quite brilliant in your technical skills and rapport with patients.
You’re so highly regarded, you’ve managed to fulfil your ambition to become a surgeon. You come to work, ready to carry out a complicated operation.
You undress and don the thin, cotton scrubs. On with the cap, the mask, the gloves over the carefully scrubbed hands, ready to enter theatre and begin.
Then a male colleague rubs himself against you and says: ‘You probably felt my erection then and I can see down your top.’
Philippa Jackson, a consultant plastic surgeon, was subjected to sexual harassment in the operating theatre
Later, you have to work with the same man on an emergency operation, where his sexual advances become even more overt.
This is what Philippa Jackson, a consultant plastic surgeon, had to endure.
Her complaint to management led to a superficial investigation. She was made to feel it was her fault. The man was not suspended. She left for another job.
Sadly, Philippa is far from alone. A new research paper published in the British Journal of Surgery has concluded that sexual misconduct is rife.
Eleven female surgeons reported being raped, nearly a third have been sexually assaulted by a colleague over the past five years, and two thirds of women report having been sexually harassed by a colleague in or around the operating theatre.
Hold on. Are we talking 21st-century medicine here? Or harking back to the 1954 film Doctor In The House?
There the bullying senior surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt appeared to run a boys’ club, where the members were young men with few interests apart from drinking, flirting with women and playing rugby.
In the 1954 film Doctor In The House? the bullying senior surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt appeared to run a boys’ club, where the members were young men with few interests apart from drinking, flirting with women and playing rugby
No young nurse was safe from their advances. And there certainly weren’t any female doctors.
I suspect today’s men would prefer that there were still no women challenging them in the medical profession.
Surgery remains one of the most male-dominated parts of medicine.
Women make up more than half the places at medical school, but only 28 per cent of surgeons are female.
At the top the numbers are even smaller — only 15 per cent of consultants are women.
I know from a friend how horrific this state of affairs can be. Her aim was to become a superb heart surgeon. The life of the brother of one of her friends had been saved as a baby by such a doctor.
It was a skill she was determined to perfect. For five years she endured an atmosphere that became unbearable.
One senior surgeon would constantly insist that she shouldn’t be bothering. Surgery was not a job for a woman. The hours would make it impossible for her to do her job and raise a family.
In Doctor in the House, no young nurse was safe from the surgeons’ advances. And there weren’t any female doctors
Her questions about how he managed to do the job and raise a family were studiously ignored. He laughed when she asked him not to call her ‘babe’.
Like all trainee female surgeons, she found the theatre had been designed with men in mind.
She’s shorter than most of her male colleagues and sometimes had to stand on a box because the operating table was high and could not be lowered to suit her.
Even the instruments used in an operation seemed, she said, to have been designed for the size of a man’s hand.
It was another senior consultant who finally made her decide to quit. She’d been preparing to work with him on a tricky case.
As she put on her gown, he sidled up behind her and offered to tie it up for her — a common practice among surgeons.
She didn’t expect his arms to surround her and feel him fondling her breasts while kissing the back of her neck.
It was the last straw. She knew there was no point in complaining to management.
Jenni believes it’s time to take a scalpel to the misogyny in the operating theatre
As we saw in the case of the killer neonatal nurse Lucy Letby, they tend not to encourage any scandal emerging from their hospitals.
She knew her complaint of sexual harassment would be dismissed. She also knew making any complaint about a senior consultant would risk her losing any chance of advancement in her career.
All young doctors are dependent upon the patronage of their seniors to make progress.
So, as too many others had done before her, she left. She won’t be a superb heart surgeon, saving the lives of desperately sick babies.
She’s still a doctor, indeed a consultant, but she stays well away from the theatre and runs a team which specialises in the medical rather than the surgical side of the business.
She’s very good at it and enjoys her job, but she’ll never forgive the men who consistently undermined her ambition.
I’ll never forgive them either, because they may be denying me and any other patients of being operated on by a woman.
I can’t complain about any of the surgeons who’ve operated on my hips, breast, stomach and broken ankle.
They’ve all been charming men, but I dread to think what might have been going on in theatre while I was out cold. No hanky panky I hope, but who knows?
What’s most galling is that we may be missing out on the best surgical care.
Studies carried out in Canada and Sweden found that patients seen by female surgeons had significantly better outcomes, with fewer problems post-op.
It’s time to take a scalpel to the misogyny in the operating theatre — and accept that women might just be better at the job.
Can you really blame kids, Meghan?
Meghan Markle cited getting their ‘little ones settled’ as the reason she arrived late to Prince Harry’s Invictus games in Dusseldorf
Come off it, Meghan. Three days late for your husband Harry’s proudest moment and using the kids as an excuse?
‘Sorry I’m a little late for the party, but I had to get our little ones settled… three milkshakes and a school drop-off,’ she told the Invictus audience.
Surely the couple’s staff are qualified to make drinks and do the school run.
Sorry, but this is not borrowing, it’s stealing
Is it any wonder the rate of shoplifting is going through the roof when young people are being encouraged to see it not as stealing, but as ‘borrowing’.
The video sharing app TikTok has ‘borrowing tips and tricks’ advising which stores are easiest to steal from and which have the most efficient security.
Yet another horror of social media. Thieving is not borrowing, it’s a crime. Let’s be clear on that one.
Actor Hugh Jackman believes we should only give 85 per cent of our effort to avoid burnout
The actor Hugh Jackman says we should all give only 85 per cent of our effort to avoid burnout.
And a new study by academics in Arizona seems to back him up.
I couldn’t disagree with him more. I’ve never given less than 100 per cent and it’s never done me any harm.
My money’s on Angela this year
Jenni is backing newsreader, writer and presenter Angela Rippon to win Strictly Come Dancing this year
So, Strictly starts on Saturday, and my money is on one Angela Rippon. She’s a goddess. There is nothing she can’t do.
She has been there forever, reading the news beautifully, presenting programmes and surprising the whole country when she revealed her legs and her dancing skills on Morecambe and Wise in 1976.
She’s 78 and can still do the splits! If she doesn’t carry off the trophy, I shall eat my feather boa.
Older people are encouraged to join a book club to beat the blues. Not for me, I’m afraid.
You’re never lonely when you’re curled up alone with a great book you’ve chosen. There can’t be much worse than being told what you must read.