Performing the first pelvic examination: female medical students' transition to examiners

Patient Educ Couns. 2007 Dec;69(1-3):55-62. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2007.07.002. Epub 2007 Aug 21.


Objective: To gain a deeper understanding of how female medical students perceive and experience performing their first pelvic examination (PE).

Methods: A qualitative study. In-depth interviews after the students' involvement in a learning session about the PE, with professional patients (PPs) as instructors and a gynaecologist as supervisor. The interviews were analysed according to the constant comparative method to acquire a deeper understanding of the students' experiences and the ongoing social processes.

Results: "Transcending unspoken boundaries and taboos, a prerequisite for learning" was the essence of the entire material and was identified from two categories: "A didactic design facilitates the transition to examiner" and "Interactive support enables creative learning of interpersonal and palpation skills".

Conclusion: Through interactive guidance from the PPs, the students overcame affective obstacles and achieved the aim of becoming an examiner. The favourable learning experience heightened their awareness of their own bodies and promoted a deeper interest in PEs, both as examiners and as patients.

Practice implications: Engaging voluntary, healthy and knowledgeable women as instructors in the PE situation creates a safe learning environment and promotes interaction with students. Immediate feedback teaches students to integrate communicative and behavioural skills in a professional manner and to palpate the uterus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Communication
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Female
  • Gynecology / education
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Palpation
  • Patient Simulation
  • Physical Examination*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Psychology, Educational
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Support
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Taboo
  • Vagina*