Why Your Doctor Doesn’t Know You Feel So Exposed in an Exam


This one is fairly simple:  They have a different perspective than you do, one that is often is more on their mind than how comfortable you feel.

Providers have been at this examination business for a long time, and most of us have been looking at all types of bodies every day.  All types.  Nothing is that unusual, very little makes US uncomfortable, and we are looking with focused intent. When we are examined in our own appointments, we have a totally different attitude most of the time.  That might not work to your advantage.  Yes, we aren’t likely to find any of your body parts embarrassing or disgusting to view or touch, but it can dim the lights on awareness.   It can mean that your doctor isn’t thinking about how you feel when your gown doesn’t cover you up very much, or when they remove part of it and don’t replace it.

As an occupational therapist, I have a slightly different perspective.  I still need to visualize and touch to treat.  But because my training is as a therapist, I put more effort into my relationship with my clients of all ages.  I am not simply there to assess and treat.  I am teaching as well.  And “students” who are uncomfortable aren’t great learners who will continue to work with me on recovery and healing.  I spend time and attention to develop my client’s level of comfort.  I have that luxury in the longer therapy sessions I am given.

I need my clients to feel OK about my viewing and touching them in each session.  And I do not do emergency treatments, where life is on the line.  Doctors do.  Their residencies train them to hyperfocus, and one of the things that gets lost in translation is how uncomfortable their patients with trauma histories can become in an exam.


What can you do when you feel over-exposed in an exam?

You can either ask for more modest draping, or you can BYOG.  Yup.  You can bring a more modest exam gown or leave on clothing that doesn’t compromise the exam.

Asking for a sheet or an extra paper gown is probably the easiest thing to do.  You don’t have to buy or bring anything.  Your provider will tell you if it is in their way; no provider would negate part of the exam because you insist on modest draping.  They may remove it briefly, but you can ask if it can be replaced as they move their treatment to another area of your body.

Where can you buy a more modest exam gown for regular appointments? Gownies  This site has gowns for all types of bodies (people of all genders could want more coverage!).  If you pick a design or color that your system likes, you have shown them the consideration that they missed growing up.  These gowns and jackets still allow your provider to treat you.  This includes access for monitor lines and pumps.

The most important thing is to know that you have options and that your provider can alter their actions to increase your ability to “stay in the room”!

Published by Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist and a licensed massage therapist, in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment, with a focus on sensory processing issues and treating the consequences of complex trauma. I am the author of four books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone". Over the years I have lectured about trauma treatment and pediatric development.

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