Nurse Alice: What Women Need to Know About Their OB-GYN Appointments
Another lawsuit against a doctor accused of sexual misconduct? Does it ever end?
Six women and former college students at the University of Southern California have filed lawsuits against OB-GYN doctor George Tyndall, who has had numerous complaints of sexual misconduct over the years. Even the doctor’s staff complained about his behavior. What’s even more tragic is that the school was aware of the complaints and did nothing until he was finally removed from his 30-year tenure just last year.
In light of this and all the other sexually inappropriate things happening in society today, what’s a young woman to do?
For many young women away at college, going to your first gynecological appointment without the help or advice of your mother, grandmother, or some other female support person can be scary, awkward, and even overwhelming. Although a woman’s first OB-GYN visit is recommended to occur between the ages of 13 to 15 or when they first become sexually active, it doesn’t usually happen that way. Let’s face it, many young women go to a pediatrician throughout their late adolescence, and probably not even on a regular basis if they’re otherwise healthy.
Many times, a woman goes to her first gynecological appointment after she has concerns: e.g., heavy or irregular menstruation, concerns about sexually transmitted infections, exploring birth control options, or because they suspect pregnancy. Nevertheless, this is a very important first appointment that includes a general overall health exam and questioning about general health and lifestyle, and then one more focused on the health of your sexual and reproductive organs and system.
Empower yourself with knowing what to expect. Here are eight important things women should know when having their first gynecological appointment.
- Familiarize yourself with what to expect. The medical office and provider should instruct you on what to anticipate before you step one foot into the exam room. Examinations should be performed with only the necessary amount of physical contact required to obtain data for diagnosis and treatment. And an appropriate explanation should accompany all examination procedures.
- Having a female chaperone present is standard of care unless you decline the offer. But the key here is that you were offered one, regardless of the gender of the provider. You should be allowed to undress and put on a patient gown in privacy. Never dress or undress in front of your doctor.
- The doctor should be explaining and educating you throughout the exam so you know what’s happening and why before it happens. The physician-patient relationship can be damaged when this does not occur, and leaves room for misinterpretation of touching during the exam.
- Health professionals are expected to wash their hands and put on gloves when doing any invasive exams or procedures and that involve touching bodily fluids. A doctor should never be doing a pelvic or rectal exam on you without gloves.
- Both health providers and patients should avoid sexual innuendo and provocative remarks. Sexually offensive or suggestive language or jokes should be avoided. Keep things professional.
- If you feel uncomfortable at any time during the exam, you can stop the exam immediately and tell the doctor you don’t feel comfortable. This also allows the opportunity for the provider to clarify what’s happening should it truly be a misunderstanding.
- If you believe there was any misconduct or you feel violated, please notify the medical administrator immediately while the occurrence is still fresh in your mind. This helps you to retell an accurate story and intervene to prevent any potential further misconduct from happening to someone else.
- Physicians and medical administration aware of instances of sexual misconduct on the part of any health professional have an obligation to protect the safety of the public by removing said person from patient care immediately and reporting such situations to appropriate authorities, such as institutional committee chairs, department chairs, peer review organizations, supervisors, or the medical board. You can report this as well. And if you do, always do it in writing.
Watch Nurse Alice share tips on NBC: