Is It Possible to Gross Out Your Doctor? Probably Not

Most health professionals have seen it all, heard it all, and learned to deal with it all.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on April 21, 2010
2 min read

When a day at the office means performing 15 rectal exams or caring forpatients with raging vaginal infections, one has to ask: How do you cope?

Who hasn't wondered (and worried) about what goes through the mind ofdoctors while they perform a thorough exam? After all, doctors often peek underthe hood at areas of the body most of us work hard to keep hidden.

You can put your anxiety to rest, says Jeff Goldman, MD, agastroenterologist with Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill."Fifteen years into my career and having trained in New York City, it wouldreally take something extraordinary to shock me."

Elizabeth Houser, MD, an Austin, Texas–based urologist in private practice,agrees. "It's part of the job," she says of some of the ickier aspects of herwork. "It's like if you're a mechanic and have to clean out a carburetor. It'sjust what you do."

According to Houser, anyone who has gone through a residency program hasseen worse than whatever might cross a doctor's exam table in private practice.Case in point: As a third-year medical student, Goldman was sent to treatsomeone who hadn't had a bowel movement in nearly two weeks.

"I had to use my finger and manually 'disimpact' the patient," heexplains."I got over my squeamishness of doing a rectal exam that day."

Sometimes such incidents leave new doctors unsteady on their feet, saysRoshini Rajapaksa, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at New YorkUniversity's School of Medicine. But a quick recovery is typical. "Passing outis usually a first-time phenomenon."

Still, no amount of experience can desensitize a doctor to everything,Rajapaksa explains. "Just because you're used to the gross things within yourfield of medicine doesn't mean you don't get grossed out about otherthings."

It’s common to feel anxious when visiting the doctor for an invasive exam.Best way to cope? Try to relax and remember to:

Laugh it off. A sense of humor during an exam can lighten the moodand make it go more smoothly. “It helps to put me at ease so I feel like I cando a more thorough exam if needed because I’m not forcing anything or making[the patient] feel like I’m being invasive into their body,” Goldman says.

Stay focused. Remember that the test or exam you’re undergoing isbeing done because you need it. Remain focused on your health and how yourtreatment contributes to it.

Seek comfort. Find a physician who makes you feel comfortable. Ifyou’re not at ease with your doctor, discuss it with that physician or findsomeone new.