Conducting physical examinations that require patients to disrobe is one of the most common aspects of medical practice that physicians may take for granted in their busy daily routine. However, it is also an experience that can leave patients feeling vulnerable, exposed and uncomfortable, and has been the source of many patient complaints over the years.
I have written before about the inherent power imbalance that exists between patients and physicians. Physicians must maintain their patients’ trust by conducting physical examinations and procedures professionally and respectfully. But what does that look like in practice?
The College has released a new video to help registrants better understand what is expected of them when conducting physical exams on patients. The video, which complements the College practice standard Physical Examinations and Procedures, illustrates the importance of continuous two-way communication, appropriate exposure, and the provision of privacy.
The principles outlined in the video include offering the use of a chaperone; obtaining consent to perform the exam; providing the patient with both a gown and drape; leaving the room while the patient changes and giving them enough time to change; knocking on the door before entering the exam room; explaining what you are doing at each step of the exam and why; and exposing parts of the body only when necessary.
Many of these principles may be common sense to some, while others may find them new. Either way, I hope that the video and a review of the practice standard will encourage all registrants to reflect on how these principles can be applied in practice. Registrants are encouraged to treat the practice standard as a checklist of sorts, to ensure nothing is overlooked, thereby ensuring patients feel comfortable, safe and respected in their care.
Another new resource: Doctors of BC and the College—who does what?
Registrants may also be interested in a new resource that describes the primary difference between the role and mandate of the College and Doctors of BC. This useful chart, Who Does What?, is available on the College website.
Heidi M. Oetter, MD
Registrar and CEO
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