What To Look For In a Sexual Health Specialist
One of my friends recently had an issue with some vaginal discomfort she needed to get checked out. She got a semi-urgent visit booked with her women’s health office, but when she got there was surprised to find that she wouldn’t be seeing the provider she thought she had scheduled with, and instead was told the male medical intern was the only one available. While she wasn’t jazzed about seeing a male provider, she decided she’d rather see him than not get this issue taken care of. The exam wasn’t physically painful, but she felt awkward and uncomfortable.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. She's headed back for follow-up, which she
scheduled at the last appointment specifically with a female provider, a request she confirmed again when she confirmed her appointment. Shockingly, she was told the same guy would be seeing her again, which she, understandably, declined, and insisted on seeing the original woman she was scheduled with (who was apologetic and empathized that the situation should not have happened).
When I heard her story I was aghast, and pissed off. My mouth literally fell open. To hear that a practice had tried to place her with a male provider specifically after she requested not to be was unconscionable. Bodily autonomy and individual consent is a cornerstone of appropriate medical care; no one gets to touch your body without your say-so. Ever.
It was painfully clear that she hadn’t been listened to, her preferences hadn’t been acknowledged, and that no one was advocating on her behalf. She said that the worst part about the whole experience was feeling like she was making a big deal and inconveniencing the office. I would be horrified if I found out that one of my clients ever felt this powerless in my practice.
Here are some key things you should look for when selecting a reproductive healthcare provider. Or any healthcare provider, really. These values are deeply personal to me, so I have used a lot of examples from my own experience to illustrate what good care should look like.
Providing this model of healthcare requires time and a personalized approach of getting to know people. One of the reasons I became a Nurse Practitioner instead of another type of provider is that I wanted to be able to have this relationship-building approach with people. I also wanted to focus on health promotion and health education, and Nurse Practitioners are especially skilled in these areas of care; it’s a major part of our training and we take the time to put it into practice.
Providers of all types exist who embody this holistic approach to healthcare. If your current provider isn’t listening to you, asking questions, supporting, advocating, or empowering you, it’s time to find one that does.
Need a sexual health cheerleader? That’s totally my job! Come see me, I really like helping people get happy about taking care of their genitals and all parts of their whole selves.
©2017 Chelsea Gould