Dr. Natalie Crawford and talks about being a woman in medicine. Natalie also hosts her own podcast, As a Woman and do find her on Instagram @NatalieCrawfordMD. Her platform is focused on helping women find their voice and power – not just in medicine, but women in general.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:00] Passion for Helping Women
Natalie started her IG account with the goal to educate people about their fertility and show young women what it’s like on the other side. Having no female mentors when she was going through this process as a premed or medical student, she had no idea what it was like after training.
She was also constantly hearing stories and comments about how hard it was to be a female in medicine. Or that she could just do something easier and what would happen now to being a mom and being married. She could just miss everything.
It really does start to penetrate your subconscious and change how you view yourself if you’re actually capable of it. And so, Natalie knew she had to become a bigger voice.'Gender bias, whether it's conscious or subconscious, is really impacting the trajectory of some of these women's lives.'Click To Tweet
Interestingly, this past year, the majority of students applying to medical school and getting into medical school were women.
Moreover, there is this overarching goal when you want to please people and you start having doubts about your plan. It feels that you’re not pleasing somebody. Then you start to wonder if you can really do it and then you start changing your path. Sometimes, too, this could happen when you’re choosing your specialty to something more family-friendly.
This may also happen on a premed level where they choose the PA or nurse path when they really know in their heart that they want to become a doctor.'You need to pick the one that really fits you and your goals and not just what everyone's telling you should be doing.'Click To Tweet
[Related episode: How to Improve the Path for Women in Medicine]
[06:35] Interest in Medicine
Natalie’s grandfather was a psychiatrist and it became a running family joke that he wanted everybody in their family to be a doctor.
He said that if you can make your living taking care of other people, you’ll be happier than you if you’re making it just by making money. And this really resonated with her so she got drawn into medicine from an early age.
That said, she has been getting that doubt planted in her head from other people even since high school all the way through college. She got told how pharmacy or nursing was much more lifestyle-friendly.
She was doing really well in undergrad but she got this “no” from the faces of people just because of being a girl.'You won't get married or you won't be able to have kids or be a good mom to your kids if you become a doctor. That's the message you're being told.'Click To Tweet
What’s sad is that it does pull every part of you when you’re making a decision right now and then you’re closing other doors without realizing it. In Natalie’s case, she decided to keep going and figure things out later.
[11:11] Women in Medicine
When you’re being discriminated for whatever reason, it comes from different levels. It broadly applies to everybody. It’s a disservice because it makes you doubt your own goals as an individual.'All these advisors telling you that you can't do it are completely wrong. You can have a wonderful family life. You can be a great doctor. You can be an amazing mom.'Click To Tweet
As a woman, make the choices for how your future is going to look. Look at social media and you’d find amazing physician moms out there. They put the good and the bad to show you that it takes balance. It takes work. Some days you’ll be a doctor more, some days you’re a mom more. But you will get it done and you will be happy.
The beauty of social media is you can see women who are where you want to be and you know it can be done. It can certainly be done. And this goes out to other fields.
If you’re afraid that you may fail, it means you probably really want it and you should lean into that and not let that scare you. It really does matter to you otherwise you didn’t care if you failed.
[Related episode: Medical School Mom – Prioritizing Family, School and More]
[16:40] Work-Life Balance as a Physician Mom
In terms of work-life balance, Natalie thinks nothing’s going to be perfectly balanced on a given day and what everybody needs for balance is completely different. What works for her and her family might not work for somebody else and her family. That’s okay.
She adds that children benefit from seeing you happy and succeed. This inspires them and opens up their world. If you have two things you’re passionate about, they have to be in balance. Some days it will be more one, and then some days it will be the other.
Think about this as different seasons. If you have kids during medical school and residency, that work-life balance is going to look completely different than once you’re an attending where you can already set your own schedule.'It's about understanding the season you're in and this journey and forgive yourself for whatever that looks like at that moment.'Click To Tweet
Natalie believes that if you feel ready, you should do it. Because you’re never really, really ready. Being a parent is very challenging but certainly rewarding.
Understand that the universe has its own paradigm. You don’t know how long it actually takes to get there. So you can’t really view it as perfectly as you love to plan. Your perfect time might not be the perfect time of the universe so you just have to go for it.
[Related episode: How to Balance Being a Mom and an Attending]
[21:00] Asking for Support
There is this idea that doing it by yourself equals strength and that strength is what everybody needs. But vulnerability is actually strength.'People love to help other people. They like to make people happy. So it's not as much of a burden as we feel it's a burden.'Click To Tweet
A lot of young women would love to have a baby in residency but they don’t want to be leaning on their co-residents and making them work too much. They’re fearful of this. But give people the opportunity to step up. You will be surprised how happy they will be for you and how they don’t mind covering those extra calls.
Give them the chance to rise to the occasion and don’t presume it’s going to be this dreadful thing. It’s, in fact, a joyful thing.
[26:00] Message for Nontraditional Students'Having your child see you achieving your dreams is the number one thing you can do to tell them that they can achieve theirs.'Click To Tweet
You might feel guilty that you’re not dropping them off to their ballet class. But it’s the act of you doing this thing you’re passionate about, especially that you’re also going to change the lives of other people as a physician.
You’re going to make a difference in the world and that’s worth fighting for. This is going to leave a lasting impact on your child more than taking them to dance class would.
You’re going to find something to guilty about no matter what it is. But you’ll figure it out as you approach different seasons. That said, we’re blessed we have all the technology now so we still get to video call our kids should we need to travel a lot.
If you’re picking something because you think it will be easier, it will actually be harder because you won’t be passionate about it.
This is where society is wrong where they tell you to pick something that’s lifestyle-friendly. The truth is we really just need to pick something we love and we’re passionate about and we can figure out the details later.
Once you’re done with training, you will have a lot more control than you think over your schedule. But if you are not passionate about your work, none of it will be worth leaving your babies at home.'Don't pick a job or career that you feel like is going to be more lifestyle-friendly because it will never be worth it if you're not passionate about it and you don't love it.'Click To Tweet
[Related episode: The Nontraditional Medical Student: A Different Path to Med School]
[32:32] Avoiding Burnout and Finding Jobs
In medicine, the stakes feel so high because it takes so long to get to that end gain. And a huge part of burnout is not feeling confident in yourself to make the choice that’s true to your heart. Whether you just want to please others or you’re afraid of failing or are told you need to choose this.
We’re actually seeing a huge number of physicians leaving their first job for something different. And a lot of people now are even leaving clinical medicine for other things.'Medicine makes you feel there are scarce opportunities.'Click To Tweet
There’s this scarcity feeling in medicine because there are only a few people getting into medical school or residency, or fellowship. We are then unprepared to negotiate for that first job.
First, we feel lucky for where we are because we feel that scarcity. But you have so much power that you don’t even realize it. There is an abundance of opportunities.
When Natalie got out of training, she didn’t pick the right job for her. She just picked the opportunity that was in the town she liked and that she thought she would fit. But she realized she didn’t.
Eventually, she realized what she was unhappy with. She realized after being burned out, that there’s no room for this. She then clearly laid all the things to the table with a completely different mindset.'We're so worried about feeling humble or not asking for too much that we don't know how to ask for what we need.'Click To Tweet
[Related episode: A Burnout Story and What You Can Do to Avoid It]
[36:50] Final Words of Wisdom
Find a mentor. Get somebody who’s going to be on your team. Find a female physician out there who can give you some guidance for what they’ve been through.
There are so many female physicians out there who are trying to share what their life is like and they want to be there to support you.
Reach out to them in person or online. Just knowing that you’re not alone and that somebody else believes in you can make all the difference in what you’re trying to do.
Follow Natalie on Instagram @NatalieCrawfordMD.
Check out Natalie’s podcast, As a Woman
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