My first year as a resident urology doctor at the University of Rostock

Thu, 6 Sep 2012

"Why do you want to be a urologist, especially since you’re a woman?" That is one of the most frequently asked questions I encounter as a resident. It is a question that I consider a bit awkward since nowadays women are active in all medical specialties. I used to get really annoyed with this question, but now I instead ask a counter-question: why are there so many male gynaecologists and no one ever asks them why they choose that specialty?

A silence would usually follow, which allows me to prepare for the next question, which is usually: But don’t you find it awkward to do a prostate exam in older men and look at their genitals? Why are you so interested in prostate glands?

I’ll spare readers my reply to that question since we all know how diverse urology is, which fortunately encompasses more than just the prostate gland. This brings us to the fact that if one surveys the medical field one will discover that more and more women are specialising in urology. And why shouldn’t they?

Recently, at the OR, an anaesthesiologist said he would never marry a surgeon or urologist. When I asked him why, he replied that she would never have any free time, especially to build or have her own family. I consider that a ‘lazy’ or convenient excuse.

Some men are afraid of strong women, or rather women who have careers or go into specialties that used to be a purely male-dominated field. There are many women in my department that are not really ‘outspoken feminists’ and yet they raise their children, take their career seriously and are very successful.

I believe it is very important that there are roughly the same number of men and women in a department since they complement each other with their special abilities. But there are also many things that both genders succeed at equally, such as surgical operation, among other things.

My experience

With my colleagues in the department, I experience, thankfully, an absolutely respectful and equal work environment. Like with other people my interest on a career in urology began during my medical studies. My last clinical rotation at the Department of Urology at the University of Rostock Hospital impressed me so much that I chose urology as my elective rotation during my final year in medical school.

After completing my medical board exams, I began my residency in urology. What impressed me so much about urology? I always wanted to enter a specialty that requires good manual skills. General surgery failed to interest me since that would have been too unremarkable - being in the OR and never seeing patients- well, never seeing patients not under anaesthesia-- I do not want that.

I consider urology a specialty with many small procedures as well as long operations, while at that same time allowing me to still have patient contacts in the ward and outpatients, which to me is very important. I like the challenge not only of kidney transplantations, but other small routines or procedures, even if it is just as simple as making a patient really happy with a well-performed circumcision.

Throughout my first year in Rostock, I am lucky to have the chance to operate and assist in many cases. In the OR, I am taught a lot and encouraged to be critical and ask questions. I also have a lot of responsibility in the ward, which I found prettydaunting during the first month. Now I really appreciate making decisions on my own and having consultations with patients, seeing their contentment and relief after treatment.

My first few nights on-call were no piece of cake, but I am glad that my colleagues offered to let me join them on a few calls during my first few weeks in the department. I learnt so much in those first few weeks which greatly helped me when, months later, I had my first night call of my own.

On my very first call a patient with urosepsis came in. The consultant gave me immediate back-up and we managed the situation together. I did not feel left alone at any time and that feeling has stayed with me in all of my calls. I can call the consultant when I’m not sure what to do and that gives me reassurance. I am working in a good team all the way down to the medical student doing rotations where no one is ever left to fend for him or herself since everyone is in the same boat. Getting support both personally and professionally is almost equally important in the choice of a field of medicine to go into.

Rostock offers other interesting aspects with very attractive recreational activities due to its seaside location. If one works efficiently, one can usually leave the hospital at around 4:30 p.m., which is great during the summer when you can have a great time on the beach with surf kiting, beach volleyball or just sun-bathing!

This report is featured in the September edition of European Urology Today.