A WORKING GIRL in 1983
by Karen S. Bennett
Where to begin?
We were asked if we would agree to being gynecology models for the students of Morehouse Medical students, both men and women, who were in their gynecology rotation. We were seven women, Family Nurse Practitioner students at Emory University, in Atlanta with coaching knowledge, who knew about the dreaded hands on, if you will, first encounter of the actually bare-naked-nude-very-exposed-crotch of a breathing, vulnerable woman. All previous practice exams by the medical students had been done on hip-to-upper-thigh, rubbery models, featuring the vagina. The truncated model was a relative to Recussi-Annie, the dummy used to teach C.P.R.
We Nurse Practitioner (N.P.) students were in an Emory University classroom when approached by our instructors about this intercollegiate cooperative effort. The tipping point was that Morehouse sweetened the pot with a fee for service. Like prostitutes, we would be paid per (ahem) sexual examination.
Group Dynamic to the rescue. We heard the question, and, as women in the helping profession, our common genetic similarities would bring us to the same conclusion. Would we do it? There was a name for that kind of a woman, a woman who earned her money on her ba… , well, you know. I shuddered to think. Our eyes shot back and forth to each other under half-closed lids looking for the first assent, looking for the first clue: would we or wouldn’t we?
There it was, an eyelash flick or a subtle nod of the head. We were game.
The big day came. We traveled to Morehouse. The nervous jokes ran between us as we bravely hung our togs on hooks in the little changing cubicles. We slinked into open-backed, cotton print hospital gowns. Bare-assed, we were, as the expression goes. We, sacrificial lambs wrapped ourselves in white sheets, and were ushered into the small examination rooms where ultimately the worried medical students, who were probably more embarrassed than we, were ushered in and looked at their feet. A Morehouse instructor cleared her throat and explained how much the medical school appreciated Emory’s N.P.s’ expertise in assisting the students through their first, flesh Gyn examination.
I talked my male student through his first examination from my end of the examination table. His dad was a gynecologist. The scales slid from his eyes as he completed his exam. He smiled, appreciating his dad’s job, and he thanked me. I’d offered cues and clues to the smooth, efficient internal examination. “Make your actions firm, intentional, and directed, not tentative, accidental or casual.”
Thanks to the Emory girls, the medical students emerged from the exams wiser and more tuned-in to the woman on the other end of the Gyn exam.
Other than to laugh about how we gladly took our money, and hastened back to our routines, we N.P.s decided the experience had been a good one. Good enough to pursue the same gig one year later after I’d graduated from Emory and moved to Baltimore.
Seems that, in about 1988, Johns Hopkins Medical School, needed the self-same type of model for their Gyn students. I was by then, well versed in how to go about being a Gyn model, and I vaguely remember the pay was about eleven dollars per examination. For as long as the Gyn rotation lasted for the new students, I went home with about forty-four dollars once a week.
My donation to science was two-fold: obviously, I instructed and assisted the students to do a better exam, and secondly I learned once and for all that there IS a nerve from the vagina directly to the brain, which when that nerve is probed, does indeed give the girl a royal headache.
“Sorry, Honey, not tonight.”