During a physical examination, a doctor examines either all or part of your body to find out more about your general health or to diagnose an injury, illness or condition.
When might you need an examination by a doctor?
There are many situations when you might need to be examined by a doctor. These include if you have acough, sore throat, fever,vomiting, pain,diarrhoea,breathing difficulties, skin rashes or lumps, eye problems,earache, broken bones, injuries, illness or if you are pregnant.
You can be examined in the doctor’s surgery, in a clinic or hospital, or at a healthcare facility.
What happens during an examination?
During a physical examination, the doctor will need to see, touch, tap or prod parts of your body in order to understand what is wrong. They may listen to your heart, lungs or abdomen with a stethoscope or they may use other instruments.
As part of the examination the doctor may check:
They may need to do an internal or intimate examination, such as:
an examination of the inside of your mouth, when the doctor depresses your tongue and looks and feels inside your mouth
an examination of your pelvis, when the doctor uses gloved fingers to feel inside your vagina, while pressing on your abdomen with the other hand
a prostate examination, when the doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum (back passage)
What must the doctor do before examining you?
Before doing a physical examination of your body or that of your child, the doctor needs to get your consent. That means you agree for them to do the examination.
They should explain:
why the examination is needed
what parts of your body need to be examined
what will happen during the examination
You should be given a chance to ask questions.
The doctor will tell you if you or your child needs to take off some or all of their clothes for the examination.
The doctor should:
provide a screen or a cubicle so you can undress privately
turn away or leave the room while you dress and undress
provide a gown, sheet or suitable cover during the examination
not expose more of your body than necessary
always wear gloves when doing an internal examination
You can refuse to be examined, or you can ask to see another doctor. For example, if you would feel more comfortable if a female doctor does a pelvic examination, you should ask to see one. You can also ask to have a friend or family member present at the examination.
What are your rights as a patient?
Patients have the right to:
feel safe when seeing a doctor
be shown respect, and treated with dignity and consideration
be informed clearly about services, treatment options and costs
be included in decisions
have personal information kept private and confidential
Chaperones or observers
Most examinations are done in private. However, you or the doctor can ask for another person, called a chaperone or observer, to be present during the examination. If the doctor wants someone else in the room, including a chaperone or a medical student, they need your permission.
If you would like to report inappropriate behaviour, such as touching of a sexual nature, visit theAustralian Health Practitioner Regulation Agencywebsite and go to the ‘Make a complaint’ page. Remember, you should be able to feel safe and comfortable when seeing a doctor.
Finding the right doctor
It is important that you trust your doctors and have a good rapport with them. To ensure you receive the best healthcare, you will need to see someone you can talk to, who listens and who takes you seriously.