Surgeon labelled ‘emotional female’ after working 70 hours

Surgeon labelled ‘emotional female’ after working 70 hours

The photo Dr Yumiko Kadota chose to illustrate her story is brutal.

“You are killing yourself for a job that would replace you within a week if you dropped dead,” the first line reads.

That’s the confronting reality many junior doctors face entering the health workforce to start their training to be accredited in Australia’s overworked medical system.

Dr Kadota softens the blow with the “take care of yourself line” at the end of the photo.

And that’s exactly what the 31-year-old did.

Exhausted from being on call for 180 continuous hours in February last year, and forced to work in a surgical department she had no experience in, the gruelling schedule eventually forced Dr Kadota to resign in June.

At that point, she had worked 24 consecutive days, 19 of which were 24-hour on-call days.

“I knew what it would mean to resign — I would be black listed and I would never get a job in plastic surgery again in Sydney,” the yoga teacher wrote on her blog post mind body miko.

“But I couldn’t keep going. I crashed my car on my way home.”

Dr Kadota detailed her “worst week”, which involved a 20-hour day where she was left to reattach fingers until 3am after calling her boss for help that didn’t come.

The next day she asked for a break she never got.

The marathon runner, who knows how to push herself to her limit safely, was later called an “emotional female” by an emergency doctor who rang her at 3am on another morning.

“I expressed that it was inappropriate to wake me up at 3am about non-urgent matters,” she said.

“This was hardly an emergency. ‘Stop being an emotional female,’ he said … Would he have called my male counterpart ‘emotional’? I tried to get back to sleep but I couldn’t. How dare he call me emotional!”

The final “chilling words” she received from her head of department were “if you can’t handle the hours, maybe this isn’t for you”.

It was the end of a traumatic few months for the young surgical trainee.

Dr Kadota did not name the hospital at which she was a trainee but subsequent media attention has revealed it to be Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital.

She worked in the hospital’s plastic and reconstructive surgery department, which has now come under fire from NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the specialist unit could lose its training privileges after Dr Kadota’s piece “ignited a firestorm of outrage” from surgeons across the country.

However, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has previously argued that gruelling demands on trainees are necessary.

“RACS believes a 55-65 hour working week, spread across a seven-day period with sufficient uninterrupted breaks during that time, is appropriate for trainees to gain the knowledge and experience required by the training program,” the college’s submission into workplace fatigue and bullying in South Australia stated last month.

The college wrote that restricting surgical trainees to clinical practice of 38 hours a week could mean less exposure to operating lists and lower quality training.

“RACS recognises that by endorsing a 55-65-hour working week, fatigue minimisation practices and safe rostering will need to be employed,” it said.

Dr Kadota has been chronicling her experiences as a junior doctor on her blog to push for others to take care of themselves and spark change in the overworked industry.

Do you have a similar experience? Tell our health reporter

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