As a Receptionist we at times were asked by the Doctors to chaperone whilst they would be examining a patient.
This was something that took me by surprise when I was first asked. But I soon learnt that this could be for the benefit of the Doctor and the patient.
For those of you that don’t know what was required for this I will explain a bit more.
Chaperoning can be considered a risk management strategy when performing intimate examinations. The use of a chaperone may protect the doctor from allegations of inappropriate behaviour and misconduct or misconduct by the patient. Allegations against the doctors occur infrequently. Both male and female doctors report inappropriate behaviour by patients’ e.g. spurious requests for intimate examinations, sexual harassment
Practice should no long use untrained practice staff to fulfil the role of a chaperone. Chaperones need to be trained so that they understand what a legitimate clinical examination entails and at what stage it becomes inappropriate.
Although a chaperone does not have to be medically qualified they must be:
Sensitive to the patient’s confidentiality
Prepared to reassure the patient
Familiar with the procedures involved in an intimate examination.
Prepared to raise concerns about a doctor if misconduct occurs.
As a chaperone I never seen anything that I should not have – the patient was always treated with dignity and I always found most of the time the patient would welcome the “third” person in the room as quite often there would be a three-way conversation going on – resulting at putting the patient at ease.
While the patient was getting undressed behind the curtains I would chat quietly to the Doctor – thus giving the patient time and no “awkward silences” and while the Doctor was examining the patient I could get the appropriate paperwork ready to save the Doctor time
after the examination (and us Receptionists usually completed the forms better than the Doctors did – and in handwriting that could be read!!) This of course was all before it could be done on a computer. Then after the examination I would chat to the Doctor while the patient got ready again.
At times we would have a mum in with a young baby or toddler – and I would often keep them amused while the examination went on. Mums were always grateful for this.
Now you will remember in a previous blog that Doctors only have 10 minutes allocated to see each patient. So imagine the scene its the middle of winter when 70-year-old Mrs Higgins comes in to see the Doctor and by the time she had told him her problem and he has suggested to her that he will have to examine her his time is quickly running out – but like every good Doctor they ignore this and procedure to do what they have to do.
The doctor phones out to Reception to request one of the girls to chaperone and by the time I went it time has well gone by 10 minutes.
The Doctor asks Mrs Higgins to go behind the curtains and undress and pop herself up onto the bed. We chat quietly in the room about the weather / his children – anything that you can think of at such a moment. She took ages – after all she had piles of clothes
on and of course she is in no hurry.
The Doctor asked if she was ready – she said she was – he went behind the curtain and I could hear him say:
“No Mrs Higgins you need to take off all your bottom garments – not just your shoes and socks.”
He comes back out again – he rolled his eyes we made more small talk – at this point the patient has been in with him well over half an hour. He looks at his computer and sees a list of people booked in waiting to see him. He starts to get a bit stressed. He knew only too
well that patients would be given the girls a hard time at the front desk complaining about their appointments running late.
He asks Mrs Higgins if she was ready. She called out
“Yes Doctor I’m ready”.
He smiled and went behind the curtain.
I then heard him say in a very calm manner but with a big sigh
“No Mrs Higgins – you need to take off your underwear too – after all I am a Doctor not a magician”