LADIES FIRST: Local nurse weighs in on health care for women

Are women treated differently in the health care field? I recently went to Massachusetts General Hospital to talk to Mary, an infectious diseases nurse, and to get her opinion on the debate. Mary has treated homeless and non-homeless women, men and children in the Infectious Disease Unit. Many of her colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital have been out on the medical battlefield fighting Ebola and bird flu or involved in international disasters including the typhoon in Asia. Massachusetts General Hospital is also an international teaching hospital with a world-class reputation.

Q: Why are women treated differently in the health care field?

The right-wing Republicans and life in general. [However,] education and diversity are both making big differences for women… Things have changed over the decades, so… women are living longer than men and they have come up in the field [in terms of] professional positions [and…] are getting a little more respect.

Q: What can be done to change the way women are treated when it comes to receiving quality care from professional nurses and doctors?

Give them [women] more opportunities to get equal quality care. The right-wing Republicans want to ban all forms of abortion and take away a woman’s right to choose whether she wants to have kids or not. We shouldn’t still be fighting for the equal right to choose whether we do or don’t want kids, whether or not we can vote or marry whomever we want. Give women more choices and opportunities to receive the things they need in order to raise their families. Stop taking away services such as food stamps and education in how to care for them[selves] and their families.

Q: Do you think that income is a factor affecting why certain people receive quality health care and others don’t receive the same care?

Yes. Not everybody can afford quality health care and not everybody has easy access to the health care they need. Transportation isn’t affordable for everybody and still, to this date, some people are still struggling to choose between getting food and paying bills over getting medication for themselves and their families.

Q: Where should women go to get quality care for serious medical problems? (Hospital, community clinic, emergency room, etc.)

Consistent care with a personal care physician in a hospital clinic or community clinic is the best way for any woman to get quality care for serious health problems. It doesn’t matter if a woman is homeless or not; if she’s not seeing a PCP for regular and consistent health care then she’s not going to receive the proper quality care she needs. The emergency room can only do so much for anybody. There are too many nurses and doctors in the emergency room to be able to see the same consistent person over and over again. You need a PCP that knows you.

Q: Why does it seem that more women are diagnosed with mental health problems, addiction, breast cancer and heart disease in comparison with men?

In actuality more men are reported as receiving treatment for addiction services than women and men still do not suffer with breast cancer in the same way as women even though men are being treated for breast cancer. Due to being aware of their health problems more and making changes in their lifestyles (diet and exercise), women are living longer and have been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems less when compared to men. Men on average are living to be between 30 and 70 years old while women are living to be between 50 and 90 years old, depending on how they live and where they live, along with factors such as lack of education and lack of access to health care. I can’t speak about mental health issues, but from what I’ve read, men and women are being diagnosed equally.

Q: How do you think that positive health care changes can be achieved for women in the future?

Changes can only come about with education. Knowledge is power. Lack of money equals poor health care but lack of education creates far worse problems for everybody.

Beatrice Bell is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.