Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Am I bothered?

In the spirit of the continued survival of this blog, I thought I would write about something that I have noticed over the past year that really bugs me.
When I go to the hospitals on clinical placements, I am dressed in my clinical gear and my stethoscope and am introduced to people as a “medical student.” We get a LOT of respect from patients and staff. It may not be direct respect (but mostly is), and is occasionally some nurse or doctor rolling their eyes at the medical students, but this is also a type of acknowledgement of our role.
When I leave the hospital, in the same clothes (sans ID and stethoscope) and go to the shops or somewhere public, I get a LOT less respect. I don’t really care, but it is fascinating to notice. I can tell that people look and either don’t care what I do, or look at me and think “office-worker/secretary” and I quite frequently get treated like I am stupid.
Fast-forward to another day, when I am going to the shops in neat but casual clothes during the daytime, and I often get people assuming that I am unemployed/stay-at-home-mother/random bum. I get asked if I have a pension card (i.e. the kind that the unemployed have), I get served second or third even when I am there first, I get service staff looking down their nose at me.
Like I said, I don’t take this personally, but I resent the way that the exact same person can get treated so differently based on my outer appearance/clothing on the day, or my ID badge. People are so bloody shallow and self-centred that it just astounds me. I might be having an off day and haven’t dressed to the nines to go and buy some veggies at the supermarket. Does this make me any less worthy of respect than if I were in my clinical gear with a big sign that said “MEDICAL STUDENT” hanging around my neck? Actually, if somebody went to the grocery store with that sign around their neck, I would think they were more of a tosspot than somebody who was just happy being themselves.
One day I just might go to the store with the old stethoscope around my neck, and the ID badge still on. However, it would have to be with somebody else. It would also have to be a dare, AND a bet, AND involve substantial bribery.
Like I have already said, I don’t give a damn what people think of me as I am wandering around the shops. I am polite, neat and courteous, and that is all that matters. It is such a shame that society is so shallow and people so thoughtless that differences in treatment based on dress are noticeable.


The Voice of Reason said...

I think that if you dress in a certain way with Jesus sandals etc (As I do) everyone just assumes that you're either a uni student or unemployed. So either way they treat you like some kind of parasite.

But you're right you get quite rude service when they've judged you on what you're wearing. Although a few times I'll go into the same place in my clinical gear and the shop assistant will be much nicer and potentially even chatty in place of their previous contempt.

SO basically you're right. People a mostly superficial assholes.

The Girl said...

Whilst I don't own any messianic footwear, I do dress casually. ;)

Anonymous said...

Yours is an interesting observation about class and status in contemporary Australia.
When I was growing up in the UK, speaking "posh", I discovered that even when dressed at my daggiest, as soon as I opened my mouth in a shop or ticket office or wherever, the attitude of those serving altered immediately, and I would be treated with "respect".
I found this to be a burden. I just wanted to be treated on my merits as a person, irrespective of their perceptions of where I fitted in society.
It was one of the factors that brought me back to my native land, where I found Australian society in general to be, not classless, but much more accepting of people for what they are, rather than what power or privilege they may represent.
If you should happen to work in Aboriginal health, you will find that the stethoscope no longer cuts any ice. You will have to earn your respect with every patient, based on your interactions with them.
I still find that a very healthy attitude.
After all, having a stethoscope around your neck doesn't stop your shit from stinking, despite what some senior hospital consultants may think!