Seeking Advice

Regardless of my slacking on posting a detailed description of the many jobs I do, the one in question now is my work as a GTA. I have decided this is far too long to tweet about, so if you followed me from twitter, fan-tastic.

Lets Brief You on Exactly What This Means I Do:
I am a stunt cunt. A professional vagina. On a more professional sounding note, I am a Gynecological Teaching Associate. I teach med students, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, and friends how to perform breast and pelvic exams using my body as the model. In turn we educate them on proper verbiage, technique, and ways to empower and educate their patients. This means that I am constantly allowing myself to be attacked by shaky inexperienced hands for the sake of medicine and safety of future patients.

These baby health care providers stare intently, touch, poke, prod, and penetrate all of my female bodied bits. And I show them patience as they learn, telling the how much pressure is appropriate, why using your patient as a leaning post is a less than stellar idea, and why I want them to change their gloves between scratching their eye and putting it inside me.
I love my job. With a large part of my heart.

What I do pays well. It does because this is a very invasive exam, that we as GTA’s need to stay in control of. The rates vary on which group I teach with, and probably what part of the country you’re in, but in my experience to teach breast and pelvic to a group of 3-4 students is $125-$175 for about 2 hours. I have done these sessions for less before, but on *my own terms*.  Which is what I need your advice on today.

Lemme Show You Part Of The Dark Side:

At one of the universities I teach at, there is a terribly named week called “sex week”. This is when all of the 2nd year students get submersed in STI’s, male pelvic exams, and female pelvic exams. My first year working sex week the breast and pelvic exams were taught separately. I was in the breast room. At the beginning of the sessions I was told I’d have (not enough) time to teach how to do the exam, 4 students per session, and 3 sessions to be taught for an established price. What I got was a rotating door of students, no breaks, and no session starting on time or with the same number of students in the room as when it ended. By the end of the “sessions” I had taught 34 med students how to do a breast exam. Not the agreed upon 12, thirty-fucking-four students. For the same price as before. It was non negotiable. Strangely enough I didn’t know I should be upset about this more than I was at the time.

As I sat at home in a terrible head space holding my aching snack trays I wondered why I felt so used, filthy, disgusted, and powerless. I questioned if this was a job I was cut out to do, and seriously debated quitting. I took a shower and sat under the water until it dawned on me; I was taken advantage of. In every sense. Not only did I not get the surroundings I agreed to, I got almost 3 times the amount of students I was prepared for, and paid less than I felt my body and knowledge was worth for 12, let alone 34, inexperience hands on my business.

Something About It Gets Better & Things Never Really Change:

It has been almost 3 years since that day of shittery. Things have changed at that university, however I am still always wary about any work I pick up there. I have become more knowledgeable, experienced, comfortable and confident in myself, my work, my education, and my body. Sex week 2011 is coming up in a couple of weeks. I know this because I signed up for it in September. I received an email from the boss-monster that I was working all 7 session, as I was one of the first to sign up for it. About 4 days later I received an email, same boss-monster (BM), asking all of the GTA’s working sex week for their opinion on a dilemma. BM wants us to all get as much work as possible but does not have the budget to put us all on at our normal price. So would we rather ALL work every session for 50 bucks less a session, or keep our already assigned schedules in place. I thought this was a no-brainer (At this point I hadn’t even read the email telling me i was working all of the dates.I assumed I was just on a bunch) and that all the folks would work the shifts they were told from the get-go.

I and 3 others have responded. I was the first, saying I am not in favor of the change. the other three voted in favor. Under the belief that there will be 6 students a session, and the GTA’s would switch after three. What this means is that we would get to see our co-workers ways of teaching (which is awesome because you get to learn new tools for teaching, and help them in their problem areas) and all get the same amount of work.

These sex week sessions are taught a little different. Instead of 2 hours to teach a pelvic exam to 3-4 students, we now have 90 minutes to teach 3-5 students how to do breast and pelvic exams. To save on time and not terrify the students (they do this again 3rd year) we teach a very watered down exam focusing on how to communicate, palpate, and insert stuff. So the GTA’s are still getting the same amount of touch, just spending less time on the explaining the why’s behind stuff.

The dilemma:

I’m in a really shitty financial place. I cannot afford to turn down work. Working sex week at either rate means my 2.5 bills are paid in full, or 5 bills can get paid something. This is a lot in my world. At the same time, that whole victim-powerless-used head space is not something I ever want to put myself in, especially for money. How can I teach empowerment if I myself am feeling disempowered by being forced to let you touch my body for less than what I am worth at any other day in this venue. Should I feel this is OK because I am teaching the students in less time, and in less detail? Or should I feel enraged that my BM with my best interest at heart thinks I’m OK with letting her save a couple bucks while the same number of hands touch me, the same number of specula get put in me, and the same number of students leave the room stunned and impressed?
I need the money, but do I need it at the risk of feeling cheapened and disgusted with my physical and mental self?

I understand that ultimately the decision is mine to make. But I have thrown this back and forth in my brain for at least 4 days now with no conclusion. Give on the fiscal front, be at peace in my survivors skin. Or allow myself to be discount goods so I can pay my phone bill.
I welcome your sage-like wisdom.

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 2:53 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Being totally dependent on whatever jobs I can get, I can definitely understand your financial dilemma. My wife constantly reminds me that I under-sell myself and that’s been keeping me from realizing my true financial potential.

    Sometimes, you have to take short-term losses in exchange for longer-term gains. If you cave and take the work, no matter how desperately you need it, your customer will know she can always do this to you. Even if the budget issue is true now, she knows that she can lie about it in the future and get you to work for cheap.

    Instead, you need to maintain your professionalism and just state professionally that you cannot afford to work for less than the agreed-upon price, and that if she cannot pay you that amount, that you’ll have to decline the work and instead find other work to make up for it.

    Perhaps you can call some of your past clients and see if they can use you on the days you would have worked for Sex Week. Who knows, you could end up making more than having done Sex Week in the first place, at the original rate you were expecting to make.

    The lesson I learned is that taking on crappy jobs “because I needed the money” always meant not having the time to take on better jobs. Just turn down the crappy jobs outright, and work hard on finding better jobs in their place – just because a crappy job is “guaranteed money” isn’t a good enough reason to take it.

    Good luck, whichever way you decide. I hope you find satisfaction.

  2. No, I don’t think it is ok to do this job for less. It doesn’t sound like this teaching gig should be a revolving door thing, and if it is going to be, you should be paid more, not less.

  3. Maybe this is an obvious question, but have you voiced all of these concerns to your BM? It may not change the situation for this sex-week, but it will definitely plant the seed of growth for future situations and show her the error of this approach. Humanize yourself to her and she will see things in a different light and perhaps find more of a budget to help you and your co-workers out.

    Beyond that, I don’t think that subjecting yourself to that kind of usage is a wise idea. I’m also not in your position of paying bills or not depending on the number of hands that touch my body. It’s a really tough position and I’m not sure I can answer it with any kind of certainty that you would find comforting. All I CAN offer, is what I would do if I were in your shoes. I would go for it. Sometimes sacrifices are made and sometimes compromise happens. On the upside, at least you would be prepared for another sex-week incident if it happened. Keep in mind, though, that I come from the head space of, “I MUST pay my bills with the means that I have available to me. If that means I feel shitty for a few days or a week or a month, so be it. At least I’ll be okay in the long run.”

    All in all, I suggesting laying all of this out plain and simple for the BM. She may be oblivious to the trauma you feel when confronted with that kind of situation. Either way, you’ll feel better for having said it. I think, anyway.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SAmber.Daniels, SAmber.Daniels. SAmber.Daniels said: New posted is up: Seeking Advice (is feeling used worth paying my bills?) […]

  5. I know I’m a little late to the party, but my philosophy is that even if I’m broke, I will not lower my rates (except for an amazing job) — my time is at a high enough premium that I’d rather be unpaid (and doing something of my choice) than selling myself short (and working for an employer who doesn’t sufficiently value my work). There have been times in my life that it was not so, but those were times when I was less busy then I am now.

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