Students/Residents Being More Sensitive to Patient Modesty
Patient modesty needs to be a high
priority during all medical procedures. Medical students and
residents are often so busy focusing on their training for procedures
and protecting a patient’s dignity and modesty gets sidelined,
especially in surgeries, the ER, and other busy departments.
Many patients care about their modesty in medical settings and
their wishes for modesty should be honored. Most patients
welcome medical professionals of either sex for procedures and
exams which do not expose their private parts. Intimate
procedures are another story. Many patients prefer same sex
intimate medical care. For example, many women prefer a female
gynecologist and most men prefer a male urologist.
Patients often seek doctors who are
sensitive to their needs. When they find a doctor willing to
accommodate them these same patients will return for care and
recommend the doctor to family members and friends. Doctors
sensitive to patient modesty are in demand. Many men seek male
urologists that employ male nurses. It is strongly recommended
that you check out patient
modesty friendly doctors and follow their example as you
train to become a doctor.
Medical students and residents can
be useful in honoring patients’ wishes for an all-same
sex medical team. For example, many male medical students and
residents could assist male urologists with procedures for male
patients who do not want any females. For example, one male
urologist who does not have any male nurses said that he could
have a male resident assisting him in an urological procedure
on a male patient who wanted an all-male medical team.
Medical schools need to reduce the number of intimate procedures
such as pelvic exams, rectal exams, and pap smears required
by students in order to graduate, especially if they are planning
on specializing in areas that do not perform these intimate
procedures. Many medical students have chosen their specialty
early on. Cardiologists, neurologists, radiologists, podiatrists,
optometrists, otolaryngologists, and orthopedic surgeons do
not perform gynecological or urological procedures. Medical
schools have the ability to exempt students from doing these
intimate procedures. There is no reason for a female medical
student, who is planning on becoming a gynecologist, to be required
to learn how to do urological procedures on male patients. Look
at how a stressed medical student who had planned on becoming
a neurologist or pathologist at http://patientprivacyreview.blogspot.com/2011/07/medical-education-modesty-concerns.html
had to quit medical school because she saw no value in doing
unnecessary intimate exams on patients due to the specialty
she was going into. This is sad because this lady would have
made an excellent doctor.
*All medical students and residents
are encouraged to watch the videos, Problems
with Medicine Being Gender Neutral and Surgery
and Your Modesty.
Here are two examples
of surgeons sensitive to patient modesty:
1.) One Illinois orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Scott
Trenhaile, invented a special ‘Modesty
Bra’ for female shoulder surgery patients after he
received concerns from his female employee who felt uncomfortable
letting him operate on her shoulder with her breasts exposed.
The Modesty Bra can be used for many other surgeries.
2.) An orthopedic
surgeon, Dr. Bruce Levy who performs hip replacement surgeries
at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota grew weary of seeing
patients unnecessarily exposed for the surgery and it inspired
him to invent Covr Medical garments. Patients who undergo hip
surgery, cardiac catheterizations in the groin, cardiac bypass
surgery, and other surgeries that require access to the groin,
hip, or part of the back can use the Covr
Medical garments which cover the genitals. These garments
have helped save embarrassment for so many patients. Realistically,
many patients are more anxious about how they will be exposed
for procedures than the actual procedure itself. One man who
needed heart valve replacement said the garments helped to save
We need more doctors like Dr.
Trenhaile and Dr. Levy who went the extra mile in helping to
protect patient dignity and modesty. Medical students and residents
should follow those doctors’ example in protecting patient
modesty and dignity.
We encourage all medical students / residents to work on being
more sensitive to patients. Below are some tips to use as a
1.) Never do
pelvic, rectal, and genital exams on patients under anesthesia
without their consent under any circumstances. This
is unethical! The truth is many pelvic, rectal, and
genital exams are unnecessary anyway. Check out this article,
about Pelvic Exams.
2.) Stand up to your medical school about unnecessary
intimate procedures. Refuse to perform them. If you already
know what specialty you are going into and it will not require
intimate procedures, encourage your medical school to exempt
you from learning how to do intimate procedures on patients.
3.) Never try to convince a patient to accept
opposite sex medical professionals for intimate procedures.
Don’t use arguments such as “they are professionals”,
“they’ve seen it all”, and “they are
very skilled and have done this procedure many times”.
4.) Always introduce yourself to the patient
and explain your role. Never pressure the patient to accept
you to do intimate procedures on them because you need the training.
The patient’s wishes should always be the priority.
If they decline to participate, honor their wishes.
5.) Ask for permission before you touch certain
areas of any patient’s body. Explain in precise details
what you will be doing, especially if the procedure involves
private parts. Explain tests that are ordered and their results.
This shows patient-centered care. Always respect a patient’s
wishes if he/she says “No” to something.
6.) Advocate for the patient to wear their
street clothes as much as possible. Many procedures and tests,
including blood tests, blood pressure tests, stethoscope heart
exam, eye, ear, nose, and throat examinations, as well as throat
cultures can be done fully clothed.
Check out the articles about patients wearing their own clothes:
Beneath the Hospital Gown and Keep
Your Pants, and Your Dignity, at the Hospital.
7.) Always strive to give patients maximum
dignity and respect. Do not unnecessarily expose them. For many
surgical procedures that do not involve the genitals, hips,
and groin, patients can wear 100% cotton underwear or disposable
underwear/shorts as long as they do not contain metals. Check
Underwear Removal for Surgeries. Encourage your attending
physician or professor to utilize special garments such as Covr
Medical Garments for procedures that require access to the
groin, hip, and part of the back (ex: kidney procedure) and
the Modesty Bra for women.
If a rectal exam or colonoscopy is required, patient should
have the option of wearing boxer shorts backwards or specialized
colonoscopy shorts that only expose their buttocks.
8.) Encourage your attending physician or professor
to suggest other facilities/doctors if that facility cannot
accommodate a patient’s wishes for a same sex team, or
schedule that procedure when a same sex medical team can be
9.) During general anesthesia patients
continue to expect dignified care. For patients who require
surgery that involves exposure of their private parts commit
to helping them get a same-sex surgical team if that is their
preference. Be open to using local or regional anesthesia if
that is the preference of the patient. This allows the patient
to remain awake and alert during a procedure and gives many
patients peace of mind. Also, patients should have the option
of having a personal advocate such as their spouse present for
surgeries and procedures. Check out this article, Why
You Should Have a Personal Advocate?
10.) Treat compromised patients and those who
suffer with dementia and Alzheimer’s with dignity and
respect for their privacy. Always assume that a patient wants
to be treated by a medical team of the same sex if the patient
is unable to communicate her/his preference. One female car
accident patient was traumatized when she witnessed a male nurse
removing her tampon while she was semi-conscious.
11.) If any colleagues including your attending
physician make derogatory comments about patient’s private
parts, report them to the administration. Do not tolerate this