Do you stay in the room while your child is undergoing a physical examination by a doctor? Certainly when they’re younger, but the older your child gets, the more awkward the scenario.
With younger children — up to around age 10 — a parent should always be present for any kind of physical exam, the American Academy of Pediatrics says
Now, the AAP is updating it’s policy on medical chaperones during physical exams. According to the new statement, teenagers should have the option of having a “medical chaperone” present when they are undergoing any kind of intimate physical exam.
The group also says pediatricians should have a medical chaperone on hand for younger children when a parent is not there or shouldn’t be there – such as when child abuse is suspected.
“The chaperone should be a nurse or a medical assistant,” said Dr. Edward S. Curry, who led the AAP committee that wrote the new statement. The chaperone should not be the office secretary, he told Reuters Health, or a friend or other family member of the patient.
The new policy also clarifies when chaperones should be offered to adolescent patients.
Doctors often see chaperones as necessary when performing a pelvic exam, but they are also recommended for other intimate exams, Curry said — including breast exams and rectal exams.
“We wanted to make sure pediatricians are aware they should (have chaperones) when they do those exams as well,” Curry said.
Chaperones are recommended, but it’s up to your teenager to decide if they want one. Some might be uncomfortable with someone else present during the exam.
The point of chaperones is to help protect both children and pediatricians, Curry said. Sexual abuse by pediatricians is “rare,” he noted, but it does happen. On the other hand, young patients could misunderstand a doctor’s appropriate behavior during an exam and accuse him or her of abuse.
A few U.S. states require pediatricians to have medical chaperones present for certain exams, but most have no mandates on the issue. So parents, know your options! And make sure your teens do too. You have the right to request a medical chaperone, or refuse one.