COMMENTARY

What if Your Patients Don't Want to Take Their Clothes Off?

Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LMSW

Disclosures

September 08, 2015

In This Article

Men May Be Modest, Too

Male modesty has received relatively little attention, Dr Sherman observes. Fewer female physicians involve chaperones when examining men than do male physicians who examine women,[4] perhaps because modesty has historically been regarded as pertaining only to women. But men should be accorded the same respect as women, he emphasizes.

The Role of Office Staff

The demeanor and attitude of your nurses are key to putting patients at ease. So, Dr Chou recommends "customer service training" for staff. "They can tell the patient matter-of-factly to put on a gown, or they can show empathy." He encourages the nurses to explain the rationale behind undressing if the patient seems reluctant.

"I have a great medical assistant who reads the situation," says Dr Quinlan. "For example, if an adolescent patient is nervous or about to cry, she does not ask her to take off her clothes, because I will talk to the patient before any exam takes place."

Building trust begins before you even step into the examination room. Some physicians opt to first meet with the patient in their office, where they can explain the nature of the examination in advance. Others prefer to have the patient already prepped in the examination room.

Even if you have already spoken with the patient in your office, continue to explain what you are about to do and its rationale at every step of the way during the examination, advises Dr Quinlan.

The Gown Makes a Difference

Paper gowns compromise modesty, observes Susan Frampton, PhD, president of Planetree, a not-for-profit organization that "promotes patient-centered care." "They are skimpy, they rip easily, they do not close properly, and they leave the patient's backside exposed."

Some physicians use paper gowns because they are perceived to be more sanitary, but cloth gowns are more comfortable and modest.

"We use cloth hospital gowns, asking patients to leave the opening to the front," reports Dr Quinlan. "This makes it easier to uncover one part of the body while leaving the rest covered. When a gown closes in the back, a larger portion of the patient is exposed during an examination."

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