Last week, I returned to my alma mater to teach the new class of student midwives and women’s health nurse practitioners. I didn’t give a lecture. I was there as a pelvic model. I was one of several recent graduates to participate in a new program that other graduates and the faculty developed together.
When I was in midwifery school, we had an opportunity to work with paid pelvic models. Women from all walks of life volunteered their time and bodies to help students learn hand skills and proper technique. But often our time was very limited with these models, so we ended up perfecting our skills by practicing exams on our fellow classmates.
I remember some students were upset that we didn’t have more time with the models given the amount of tuition we paid for our graduate education. Others pointed out that medical students would never be expected to learn to do pelvic exams on fellow students. But it was important to us, as novice providers, to be as competent and confident as possible before we went out into our clinical sites. None of us wanted to have to learn on patients, or give any woman a painful pelvic exam or bad experience.
Friends ask me why I would even think of offering my pelvis up to students, subjecting myself to poking, prodding and multiple speculum exams. I see it as a way to give back and an investment in the future of women’s healthcare.
As women, who are also experienced women’s healthcare providers, we were able to give the students tips and guidance on their hand skills and technique. Looking back to my own student experience, we were nervous and uncertain as we practiced on our classmates, and as student models, we weren’t able to give the constructive feedback or true evaluation that students really need to learn.
The group of students I worked with this week were very receptive and enthusiastic learners, and they were so appreciative of the Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) models. I applaud the graduates who recruited providers to model and worked with the faculty to make this happen. I hope this program will continue to thrive and that my fellow graduates will continue to offer their time and their bodies to teach our future colleagues.
Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.