Medical students' experiences in learning to perform pelvic examinations: a mixed-methods study

Int J Med Educ. 2021 Nov 26;12:233-242. doi: 10.5116/ijme.617f.b261.


Objectives: We aimed to explore learning experiences among medical students learning to perform pelvic examinations and to identify factors that facilitate their training.

Methods: A mixed-methods study including a web-based survey and focus group discussions (FGDs) was conducted among medical students who had completed their obstetrics and gynaecology (ObGyn) clerkship. The FGDs were recorded, transcribed and analysed using qualitative content analysis with systematic text condensation. Survey factors were compared using the χ2 test or Fisher's exact test.

Results: 160 students (97 female, 61 male, two other) at six universities in Sweden responded to the survey. Two mixed FGDs were conducted. The majority (87%) of the students experienced confidence in performing pelvic examinations, stating that sufficient, repeated training opportunities and support from a clinical tutor were crucial components of the learning experience. Prior to the ObGyn clerkship, negative expectations were more common among male students. The male participants experienced having a disadvantage because of their gender, while female students considered their gender an advantage (p<0.001, N=121, Fisher's Exact Test). The clinical tutor and the use of professional patients (PPs) had a fundamental role in providing learning opportunities by including the student in patient care activities.

Conclusions: The importance of the clinical tutor, as well as the use of PPs, are important factors when planning education in pelvic examinations, and this knowledge could be used when educating other intimate examinations during medical school. In addition, similar investigations on students' experience in training other intimate examinations could be considered.

Keywords: gender differences; learning opportunities; medical students; obstetrics and gynaecology clerkship; pelvic examination.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Female
  • Gynecological Examination
  • Gynecology* / education
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obstetrics* / education
  • Pregnancy
  • Students, Medical*