September 17, 2007, 1:01 am

The Best of Emergiblog: Down With Stereotypes!


No? Well how about an iPod ? Nursing is working with Nursing Voices to give away two free iPods to deserving, active posters and linkers to the Nursing Voices forum. Head over to Nursing Voices for all the details.

I’m a moderator so I’m not eligible.

Now do you feel sorry for me?

Ah, I knew that would do it!


manbabyI’ve noticed that a lot of old ads are blatantly insulting to men.

Forgotten stereotypes return to life as you peruse these old pieces of health care ephemera.

Men acting like twits until they get their coffee. Criticizing their wives because they didn’t buy the right kind of oatmeal.

Ignoring their wives because of feminine….issues.

I find the ad pictured particularly obnoxious.


First of all, men do not act like babies.

In fact, it’s usually hard to get them to tell you how they are feeling because they don’t want to make a big deal of things.

Did I just propagate a stereotype?


I’ve noticed differences between men and women in terms of how they respond to health issues.

And it isn’t because men are “sissies” or women are “drama queens”.

It’s because men and women are different. It’s been scientifically proven that men and women process information in different ways.

Just don’t ask me to cite them. I’ll be doing enough of that in school.

And don’t expect anatomical diagrams proving just how different we are! What sort of blog do you think this is?

Here are my observations of some non-stereotypical ways that men and women differ:

  • Women tend to express more agony than men when they are suffering from cholecystitis.
  • Men tend to express more agony than women when they are suffering from kidney stones.
  • Women really do present differently when they are experiencing angina/heart attack symptoms. More vague. Less classic.
  • Men have more of a tendency to vaso-vagal after getting an injection.
  • Women are more willing to obtain an evaluation if they experience pain or another uncomfortable symptom.
  • Men will present with increased symptoms because they will wait longer to come in.
  • Women will rarely say “ask my husband”.
  • Men will more often say, “my wife has all that information”.
  • Women will usually give very specific descriptions of their pain.
  • Men will often just say “It hurts”.
  • Women will present with a 10/10 pain but look slightly uncomfortable.
  • Men will present with 10/10 pain and look ghastly.
  • Women will need to urinate within 5 minutes of arrival.
  • Men won’t even think about a urinal until you mention it unless they are elderly.
  • Women have a difficult time assuming the patient role because they have a million things to do and can’t afford to be sick.
  • Men have a difficult time assuming the patient role because they just have a harder time realizing they are sick.
  • Women will ask more questions regarding medication administration for their children at discharge.
  • Men are more likely to seem distrusting, or cynical, regarding the diagnosis for their child.
  • Given a call bell, a woman will utilize it more often, appropriately.
  • Given a call bell, a man is more likely to wait until he sees you to ask for something.

Then again, there are some things that both sexes share in common:

  • Neither men nor women have an easy time waiting. The hurry-up-and-wait atmosphere of the ER is hard for both.
  • Both sexes will immediately become concerned that they are missing dinner, even though they have presented with vomiting and abdominal pain x 2 days. If the patient isn’t concerned, their partner will be.
  • Both sexes seem to respond to illness based on age and it is developmentally related, not stereotypical:
    • Teenagers will brush off an injury as “not that bad”, especially if they are in sports or it is a sports-related injury. The first question after the shoulder is reducted or the splint is applied will be: “When can I play again?”
    • Patients of both sexes in their late teens or early twenties seem to need more nurturing; the nurturing that used to be provided by their parents. They will seem a bit needy, slightly whiny (for lack of a better word). I noticed this is college kids when I worked at a university medical center.

Of course, these are just my observations over the years, but I can state that, in my experience, with very few exceptions, men are not wimps and women are not overly-dramatic.

Unless I’m sick and then we’re all wimps, as per a previous post.

Seriously, stereotypes are the one thing I try very consciously to avoid in my practice.

It’s not easy when you see patient after patient, often with the same complaints.

It’s why I will use a patient’s name all the time instead of referring to them as “Bed 18” or “the migraine in 4”.

If I use their name, my patients are not stereotypes.

They are unique.

Every one of them.


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  • scalpel

    September 28, 2006 at 4:08 am

    Very perceptive post.

    The reason married men live longer than single men is that their wives make them seek care earlier in the course of their disease process.

  • Sean

    September 28, 2006 at 6:53 am

    Awesome post! I haven’t even finished my degree and I’ve witnessed almost all of these patterns of behaviour!

    I find a lot of current pop culture insulting to men. Take a look at most sitcoms. Brilliant smart beautiful wife….clumsy, dimwitted, unorganized, needy husband (e.g. Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens…etc. etc.)

    It’s tradition to spotlight a mother/son aspect to marriage. God forbid the man was self sufficient and smart! LOL!

  • Vasha

    September 28, 2006 at 10:15 am

    On the subject of “scientifically proven” differences between the sexes, the excellent folks at Language Log have been doing a series of posts over the last month, trying to get at just what the evidence is behind some statements that have been published in the popular press. This post contains links to the rest of the series.

  • ltaylor

    September 28, 2006 at 11:07 am

    Great Post! (as usual)

    I had to threaten my husband to get him to the ER when he had symptoms that sounded like a heart attack. After much discussion I told him I would be in the parking lot at 3pm and if he was not there I would be at the lawyers office at 3:15pm. I guess he took me seriously because he was there waiting.

    Unfortunately they did not discover his heart problems that visit as he had a good vessel running over the bad vessel and the doc chalked it up to anxiety and lack of sleep. It took a year and another heart attack to get the proper diagnosis (because he did not go for the stress test as recommended).

    Even though he was having serious chest pains it was still difficult to get him to go the second time too…though it only took a stern “GET IN THE CAR!”

    Of course that will never work again because as I have mentioned before he had the HIT reaction to the Heparin and was kept in the hospital for a month….he waits outside whenever anyone else has to go to the ER….afraid he will be admitted again…Peace! L

  • DK

    September 28, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    Every time I give blood I nearly pass out. For some time now my wife has made fun of me for this. I’ll be sure to point out that you said:
    “Men have more of a tendency to vaso-vagal after getting an injection.”

    I guess the important part here is not so much that you’re injecting something but that you are sticking a FRIGGIN’ needle in our bodies!

  • tscd

    September 29, 2006 at 12:02 am

    You are so right about those gender differences; I was laughing so hard.

    I’ve also noticed that men tend to vasovagal watching other people having procedures done – this extends to medical students too (I’ve never seen a female med student faint).

  • Crystal

    September 29, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Thank you for all you do, Kim. I wish you had been my ER nurse today.

    I see the differences you have mentioned on my med-surg floor for sure! We are different! Why don’t more people understand that? Oh well, that must be why we have you!

  • enoch choi

    September 30, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    just finished a shift with a patient q12″


    would have been more fun with you as my nurse!

  • N Carolina

    January 27, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Hi – big thanks (great site!).

  • Disappearingjohn

    September 17, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Yep, those observations are spot on…

    Although, I’ve often heard the opposite of your first commenter… married med don’t live any longer than single men… it just feels twice as long!!! (okay, okay, just don’t tell my wife I said it!)

  • stefafra

    September 21, 2007 at 6:03 am

    I’m a woman but I have vaso-vagal reactions quite often if needles are to be stuck into me: injections, blood tests, blood donations, dentist procedures, you name it, I faint. Usually I recover in a few seconds.
    This seems to scare a lot the doctors or nurses when it happens, probably because they expect vasovagals only from men, who knows.
    Last time I woke up and the dentist was calling an ambulance, she was almost paler than me….luckily I managed to reassure her that I was just a big sissy and not going to die any soon.
    I should have told her that I’m “allergic to needles” but I’m quite ashamed of this reactions and tend to convince myself that it is not going to happen again.
    Wrongly, it seems.

  • Remi

    October 10, 2007 at 1:32 am

    Great post!
    Thanks for the informations. I enjoyed reading it.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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