I am 37 years old. I have been going to the gynecologist for about 20 years. During that time I graduated from high school and college, started a career, got married, gave birth to twins, tried many different forms of birth control and brands of birth control pills, and changed doctors 4 times. One thing has remained the same in all these years of my “women’s” health care – I always saw a doctor, a Board Certified, Medical School Degree, diploma hanging on the wall doctor. This year I went through the usual ridiculous measures that you need to take in order to see an OB/GYN in a busy Manhattan practice. I called 3 months in advance of my desired date and, after much conferring with the receptionist, got an appointment for my annual check up 4 months later. All set right? Well, no…
Last week I came home to a message from the receptionist telling me that my appointment time will have to be changed to 5:30 pm. In other words I will have to get a babysitter so that I can go to the doctor. When I called back to figure out a new time during the school day I was told the next available time would be 2 months later. Or, the receptionist informed me, I could see the PA next week. The what? The Physician’s Assistant, like this was the most normal option in the world. Turns out the Physician’s Assistant could do an exam, a Pap smear even prescribe drugs. Just like a doctor, the receptionist cheerily told me, except she didn’t go to Medical School.
Now, maybe I’m crazy. Or maybe as the daughter of a doctor this just smacks of the further denigration of respect for what doctors do, but isn’t that part about going to Medical School kind of important? I’m sure a PA has been well trained and can help a doctor “see” more patients than she would normally be able to, but when I go to my doctor for a check up – a very personal check up I should add – I don’t think its too much to ask to actually see my doctor. My vetted, carefully chosen, highly recommended doctor. Isn’t that relationship important? I feel like checking in with my doctor once a year is not just about the actual exam and subsequent lab tests, but about the yearly catch up. How am I doing? Am I thinking about having another baby? Am I happy with the birth control we decided on last year? How’s my marriage? Any personal issues that I would only discuss with my OB/GYN like sex or post pregnancy blues, or other things that are so easy to talk about when you’re in that office with a doctor dedicated to women’s health suddenly become shunted to the side.
I’ve come to realize that now that I am not going to have any more children and fall into the GYN side not the OB side I warrant less attention in my doctor’s practice. But, I want to know why a woman is less worthy of a Medical Doctor’s time because her appointment is “routine” instead of prenatal. So I told the receptionist that I would not like to see the PA. I will get a babysitter or have my husband come home early so that I can have an actual in person appointment with my doctor. And I have to say this has made me rethink my doctor herself. I will probably start looking for a new doctor, maybe one without the hyphen -OB, and one who thinks that a check up is an opportunity to check in.
This post originally appeared at nycmomsblog