13 Ways Providing Abortion Care Makes Me A Better Doctor


Linda Prine, RHAP’s medical director, moderates the Access List, a clinical listserv with more than 1,000 subscribers all dedicated to providing abortion care within family medicine and primary care settings. This regular column features Linda’s postings to the Access List.

At our recent Reproductive Health Access Project gathering at Society of Teachers of Family Medicine annual meeting, we discussed some of the ways in which providing abortion care makes us better doctors. I pulled together everyone’s comments and am sharing below. Providing abortion care makes me a better doctor because:

1.   It teaches me the real meaning of being patient centered.

2.   It taught me how to reserve judgment and understand that I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes.

3.   It makes me brave because I don’t really think I’m a brave person. But when I do this work that I intensely believe in, in a state that would like to criminalize it, I know that I am being brave and that makes me a stronger person.

4.   It makes my procedure skills better for IUDs and endometrial biopsies and really all procedures.

5.   It taught me how to really, really listen to my patients. It lets me make abortion a normal part of the life cycle. Since I take care of women I’ve known since they were infants, and they know me and trust me and I can make the abortion a normal part of medical care for them and let them know I think it’s a good decision for them and be a supportive person who they know cares about them as I provide this care.

6.   It has helped me discuss so many difficult areas with patients: morality, spirituality, and ethics.

7.   It gives me a chance to let women know that I respect their dreams for their future and that I will help them get there by providing the abortion they need so that they can have that life back that includes pursuing those dreams.

8.   It has been a way for me to improve my counseling skills, my listening skills, my empathy with patients, so many things I need for being a good doctor. I have gotten better at due to providing abortions in my own office and all that it takes.

9.   It’s all transferable to other areas of medical care: including understanding systems issues and politics of medicine and really everything!

10. It has helped me become a better teacher of residents because I have to be mindful of the patient and the resident and be sure that both of them are doing ok all the time.

11. It helped me be there to support women through a particularly difficult moment – it sometimes occurs to me that my patient will remember this day for the rest of her life.

12. It helped me to recognize that abortion can be something super important or something routine and normal, depending on the particular patient’s situation.

13. It is the thing that gets me “jazzed” which helps keep me interested in other aspects of family medicine. It taps into all aspects of myself within my work. Thinking, feeling, troubleshooting, coordination, love and family and friends and all that is truly important in life.

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