Trading My Contraceptive Kit for the Real Thing

by Ashley Generallo

In 2005 I graduated college. I didn’t have anything really impressive to say when people asked me about my future plans. No, I didn’t have a job lined up. No, my psychology/women studies degree didn’t make me qualified for any particular job in any particular field. But I did know one thing for sure: I wanted to work for Planned Parenthood.

After a summer of phone calls, letters, and emails to the local Planned Parenthood human resources departments, I got a job working the front desk in a nearby clinic. My goal of getting my foot in the door was officially reached. The clinic pulled my attention between the busy phone, the patients coming in for appointments, and answering questions about STI testing and birth control methods. I tried my hardest to make a trip to Planned Parenthood as pleasant as possible, whether it was to pick up a pack of pills or have a colposcopy.

Within two years, I found myself working for PPGNNJ’s education department, The Center for Family Life Education. I became “Miss Ashley: The Sex Lady” to many local adolescents (my mom is so proud!). In this position, I took what I learned from the clinic and used it to better educate my students, helping them make healthy decisions about their bodies and lives, in and out of the exam room. I felt more empowered working in the education department. I was reaching young people before they needed to visit the clinic making them more prepared and educated on what to expect when it was time to make a visit.

Fast forward another 3 years and I’m back to the clinic. Only this time, I’m the manager. Am I nervous? A little. Am I afraid I won’t love this job as much as my previous? Sure. Do I feel like I don’t know anything? Often. But in this situation I must rely on the lessons I have learned from The CFLE to ease me into this new role.

I learned that:

  • If I can manage a classroom of 12 year olds, I should have no problem managing a bustling clinic.
  • When talking to a patient at the clinic, you don’t have to compete with dismissal bells, classroom gossip, or science homework.
  • Icebreakers and energizers work in both a classroom and a staff meeting.
  • Everyone enjoys snacks.
  • There is an opportunity every day to learn something new and share it.
  • I am still not expected to know all the answers.
  • It is always important to explain things in the simplest way possible, without leaving information out or making a person feel stupid or judged.
  • Schools and clinics carry the same amount of germs and I will have a cold all year round.
  • Having a smile on your face goes a long way.
  • Though our approaches may be different, everyone working for Planned Parenthood makes a difference and is working toward the same goal: healthier, more informed people.
Maybe I do know something after all…