April 6, 2011


I shadowed at PP last week.  It was different from what I expected, in mostly good ways.

What do I say about it?  It was more nonchalant that I was expecting.  More welcoming.  More like normal day-to-day business.  The women running the show were funny, lively, no-nonsense.  The patients were a mixed bag, some subdued, some at ease, some a little scared.  Afterward, almost all of them were relieved.  I say almost only because one woman was in considerable pain for her time in the recovery room, but when she left she seemed much better.  It was not regret that made her uncomfortable but simply the cramping.  There was a vast range in ages: from the very young (all the staff were checking with one another--did the authorities need to be called? had the proper counseling steps been taken? was this girl all right? could her grandmother come up to the recovery room?) and others who were older.  Women who were engaged, seeing someone new, single, mothers, nulliparous.  Some had never been there before; others had been at least once or more.  They all left with some sort of birth control plan and they all left with a little more control over their lives.

What was missing?  Somehow I had envisioned it to be a cold, forbidding place, with disapproval seeping out of every pore.  The lyrics of a song occur to me as maybe the basis for this: "and she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walkin' through the door/ they call her a killer, and they call her a sinner, and they call her a whore."  The staff at the clinic, though, are not the "they" from the song lyrics.  Somehow those words always made me imagine a male doctor, with dark-framed glasses, frowning paternally at a young woman with a bulging belly who's come in to have her nth procedure.  Instead, the clinic was full of women: women at the check-in, women at the front desk, women nurses and assistants in the exam rooms, and even the doctor was a woman.

There is more to be said, but in some ways it does not need to be said.  Like other experiences in medical school, some things should not be shared on the internet.  We have a very privileged place in terms of information--people's lives and secrets and vulnerabilities are given to us for safekeeping and it would be in poor taste and poor repayment for those gifts to be scattered to the wind.  Having signed a confidentiality agreement--and being firmly committed to advocacy for this cause--I also am very aware that this post could turn up in a google search.  Thus, the avoidance of certain terms.  I think this is the first time where I've actively edited something out of a post as I wrote it.

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