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Medical Student’s Experiences and Perspectives on Obtaining Consent for Pelvic Exams

Purpose: To understand medical student’s experiences and perspectives regarding pelvic exam consent in order to inform institutional policy development.

Background: National news sources have criticized medical students learning pelvic exams on anesthetized patients without explicitly obtaining consent. Some states have outlawed unauthorized pelvic exams and several institutions have developed specific pelvic exam consent policies. Limited research exists on students\' viewpoints regarding pelvic exam consent, with the majority of prior studies focusing on patient attitudes and institutional guidelines.

Methods: Third- and fourth-year medical students (n=165) at the University of Minnesota Medical School voluntarily completed an anonymous eight-question survey assessing student experiences and perspectives on comfort with and preferred method of consent for pelvic exams using likert-scale questions and one free-response question.

27% of students reported explicit consent was never or rarely obtained for student pelvic exams under anesthesia and 30% reported uncertainty in whether consent was completed.  24% of students believed requiring written consent would severely impede learning.  70% of students felt a formal institutional ethical policy would give them more confidence in completing pelvic exams, as variation existed in preceptor practices of obtaining consent for student pelvic exams.

Discussions: Students favored obtaining verbal consent in ambulatory settings and written consent in operative settings, however there was discord on who should obtain consent and how written consent would hinder learning opportunities. Collectively, our findings demonstrate the need for: 1) developing formal institutional policy for learners and 2) conducting further research on public attitudes towards pelvic exam consent to create inclusive and effective policy.

Topics: CREOG & APGO Annual Meeting, 2021, Student, Faculty, Clerkship Director, Patient Care, Professionalism, Systems-Based Practice & Improvement, Interpersonal & Communication Skills, UME, Quality & Safety, Public Health, Advocacy, General Ob-Gyn,

General Information

Student,Faculty,Clerkship Director,
Patient Care,Professionalism,Systems-Based Practice & Improvement,Interpersonal & Communication Skills,
Quality & Safety,Public Health,Advocacy,
Clinical Focus
General Ob-Gyn,

Author Information

Sarah Hutto, MD, MPH, University of Minnesota; Christiana Johnson, BA; Andrea Clinch, BS

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