I performed my first gynecological (gyne) exam (on a real person, to a plastic model) this week!
Yep, we naturopathic students are in trained to perform gynecological (gyne) exams, in addition to some other sex-specific physical exams, such as breast, prostate, and testicular exams.
To all my female readers out there: if you've ever had a bad experience when receiving a routine gynecological exam, I would suggest booking your next one with a naturopathic doctor. I'm taking this opportunity to toot our own horn: a gyne exam performed by a naturopathic doctor can actually be a good experience (well, as good as a gyne can be!). I have had a gyne exam performed by both an MD and an ND. Not trying to hate on MDs too much in this post, but the ND experience was a million times better. Here is why:
1) Thorough - a full gyne exam actually has three parts. It seems, however, the most MDs only perform part 2 (the speculum exam), but that's only one piece of the puzzle! What about all of the other female structures? We NDs perform all three parts to fully assess the health of the female organs/sexual structures.
Part 1: an external genitalia exam (to assess the labia major and minora, glands, introitus, pubic hair, etc).
Part 2: a speculum exam (to assess the walls of the vagina and the cervix).
Part 3: an internal/external exam (to palpate the cervix, uterus, and ovaries).
2) Educational - we are taught to explain everything that is being assessed to the patients. For instance, as NDs move throughout the three parts, every step is explained to the patient. The patient is a part of the process. When the doctor visualizes the cervix, they can offer the patient a mirror so that she can see her own cervix too (if she wants to see it, that is). This will make the patient feel apart of the exam and more empowered about her body.
3) Patient First - we are taught to be extremely cautious with our language when performing this exam. We do not use any terminology that may make the patient uncomfortable. Also, at the beginning of the exam, we tell the patient that if any time she is uncomfortable, to let us know, and that if she wants to stop, we will stop immediately. By explaining every step of the exam to the patient before the exam begins and as the exam transitions from step to step, the patient is made aware of what is happening, which hopefully will make them feel a little bit more comfortable during what is inherently a ridiculously uncomfortable exam.