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Pelvic Examination Training

Posted Oct 28 2008 9:46pm


First, a word of warning to all the women out there:
If you see a male second-year medical student with a speculum in his hand, drop everything and run.

Luckily, our victims this week were vinyl dummies, not-unlike the kind sold to lonely middle-aged men who visit unsafely-searched websites. These unenthusiastic volunteers, come with a set of interchangeable parts (Cervix with endocervical polyp! Cervix with neoplasia!, Pregnant 10 week uterus! Two adnexal masses!). The sneaky doctors mix up Eva's (as she is always called) internal organs, so we can test our abilities to palpate and identify her various pathologies. Eva does not charge by the hour, but her $597 fee ought to be returned if you diagnose her correctly.

I've noticed a bit of a difference in how we are taught to perform the male versus female pelvic exams. The gynecologist gets up, and with a soft, sympathetic voice, talks about how she carefully drapes the patient, and eases her into the examination, by first placing her hand on the patient's knee and then thigh (she recommended that all doctors do this, to comfort the patient, but I insist that any male doctor who cares about retaining his license ignore that advice), before performing the exam. All anatomy is referred to by the most professional sounding jargon we have in our medical toolbox. "Sensitivity" and "comfort" are each mentioned about 12 times during her presentation.

In contrast, the urologist is crass and bawdy, talking about his own and others' mastrubation habits, and joking about how Los Angeles doctors, many of them Jews, are clueless about the fact that patients can get severely edematous retracted foreskin, if the patients fail to put it back where they found it. He seems to imply that the most important thing is to reduce the "unmanly" factor as much as possible when you position the patient during the prostate exam ("I call this the last position any male wants to get into"). He described an inguinal hernia as "Dude, where'd my penis go?"

Of course, we are taught to interact respectfully and professionally with all of our patients. But I do wonder if there is a silent understanding among doctors, that some men prefer to have their discomforts dispelled by bluntness and Adam-Carolla-style humor, while women often prefer to be treated with sensitivity. Of course, the above observations are gross generalizations, but it's the impression I've gotten so far, watching the style and mannerisms of the gynecologists versus the urologists. During the pertinent rotations, I'll report back on whether I still find this to be the case, or if generic "doctor-speak" is employed for all.
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