Guidelines for avoiding misunderstandings during physical examinations

Podiatrist Patient Relations

Adopted: Thu, 2010-01-14

Back to Position Statements

Reviewed 2014-11-13 - no changes

It is the position of the North Carolina Board of Podiatry Examiners that proper care and sensitivity are needed during physical examinations to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to charges of sexual misconduct against podiatrists. In order to prevent such misunderstandings, the Board offers the following guidelines.

  • Sensitivity to patient dignity should be considered by the podiatrist when undertaking a physical examination. The patient should be assured of adequate auditory and visual privacy and should never be asked to disrobe in the presence of the podiatrist. Examining rooms should be safe, clean, and well maintained, and should be equipped with appropriate furniture for examination and treatment. Gowns, sheets and/or other appropriate apparel should be made available to protect patient dignity and decrease embarrassment to the patient while a thorough and professional examination is conducted.
  • Whatever the sex of the patient, a third party, a staff member, should be readily available at all times during a physical examination It is the podiatrists responsibility to have a staff member available at any point during the examination. The board does not envision any situation in which a podiatrist would find it necessary to perform an examination of the breast(s), genitalia, or rectum.
  • The podiatrist should individualize the approach to physical examinations so that each patient's apprehension, fear, and embarrassment are diminished as much as possible. An explanation of the necessity of a physical examination, the components of that examination, and the purpose of partial (e.g., for vascular exams, palpation of lymph nodes, or neurologic testing) may be necessary in order to minimize the patient's possible misunderstanding.
  • The podiatrist and staff should exercise the same degree of professionalism and care when performing diagnostic procedures as well as during surgical procedures and postsurgical follow-up examinations when the patient is in varying stages of consciousness.
  • The podiatrist should be on the alert for suggestive or flirtatious behavior or mannerisms on the part of the patient and should not permit a compromising situation to develop.