“And don’t forget—always offer your patient a mirror and flashlight so they can observe their own exam!”

I stared at the instructor in amazement. As a female at the age of those who get pap smears, I’m fairly sure that if my gynecologist offered me this option, I’d use the flashlight and mirror to blind her. And yet the experts brought in to train us on pelvic exams (and whose vaginas on which we were going to be practicing), wanted us to incorporate this into our routine.

“I had doubts too, but the first time I visualized my cervix I felt so empowered. Most women have no idea what’s going on down there.”

Look, I’m training to be a doctor. I know extensively what’s going on ‘down there,’ but I don’t want to watch a stranger shove a metal speculum into my vagina and tell me how beautiful everything is.

“Oh, look! I’m spotting!”

Yeah. She actually said that with enthusiasm.

Medical school often feels like they (whoever ‘they’ are) put 150 people into some sick social experiment. We’ve had candy thrown at us, ten Monday tests in a row, diarrhea week, parasite week, and what felt like shark week, but was actually just our first days in the program. It’s never a dull experience, but these ladies were bringing it to a whole new level.

I’m not saying I didn’t get valuable information out of my pelvis training. They were incredibly helpful, and it was great to be in a judgment-free zone, especially when one of the gay men in my class shouted in frustration, “OF COURSE I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS! I’VE NEVER PUT ANYTHING INTO A VAGINA BEFORE!”

There, there.

Like doing anything involving the vagina, the exam takes practice. I fumbled my way through my third pelvic exam while my instructor-patient said things like, “Right there! That’s it! Do you feel it? That’s my cervix!”  And then I did. I felt her cervix and it was, I have to admit, I even cringe to admit, awesome. I have a new respect for what doctors and patients go through for an effective well-woman exam. I’m incredibly grateful that these ladies helped educate us and let us use their bodies for the most realistic training possible. It was incredible.

But that damn mirror. After this, I’m a bit terrified of my own pelvic exam this year. I don’t know how I’ll react if my doctor offers me a mirror and flashlight…

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Contributed by an anonymous medical student