Chaperones for intimate examinations in family medicine: findings from a pilot study in Melbourne, Australia

Med Sci Law. 2015 Jan;55(1):6-10. doi: 10.1177/0025802413518318. Epub 2014 Jan 29.


Background: The use of medical chaperones during clinical examinations is important whether one practises as a specialist, nurse, medical student or generalist. Chaperone use in general practice remains largely unknown in most countries across the world and, what is known is limited to a handful of countries. Their use in Australian general practice remains unknown.

Objective: To explore the attitudes and practices of a cohort of general practitioners in urban Melbourne regarding the use of chaperones in their daily clinical practice.

Methods: Self-administered postal questionnaire to pilot group of general practitioners in urban Melbourne, Australia.

Main outcome measures: Frequency of chaperone use; views on chaperone use itself; preferred choice for the role of chaperone; main reasons for using chaperones.

Results: The majority (95% respondents) had never or occasionally used a chaperone. The use of chaperones correlated with general practitioner gender - male general practitioners were more likely to use a chaperone. General practitioners preferred choice as chaperone was the practice nurse. There was no association found between chaperone use and the respondents' age, practice size or the availability of a practice nurse. The most highly rated influence by general practitioners for using a chaperone was because of anticipated patient embarrassment and/or distress.

Conclusion: This is the first step in understanding attitudes and experiences of general practitioners in general practice in Australia. The results of a larger, national study would provide further insight into this important issue taking into account the realities of general practice in Australia and relationship between general practitioners and patients.

Keywords: general practice; intimate examination; medical chaperone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Female
  • General Practitioners*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Chaperones / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Health Services