OB/GYN Asked Twitter How To Make Visits Less Daunting & Every Office Should Take Note
From ditching paper gowns to offering pain management, patients had a number of ways to make a visit to the gynecologist’s office better.
Anyone who’s ever been to a gynecologist’s office knows they’re generally not the warmest or most inviting of spaces. Between the race to change into a paper gown before the exam room door is opened — leaving you to heap your clothing onto the only chair available in the room — and cold metal speculums, there’s little that’s calming, reassuring, or relaxing about it. But what if there could be? That’s the question urogynecologist Dr. Ryan Stewart hoped to answer when he asked folks on Twitter how they’d design a gynecologist’s office.
“I have the opportunity to design my office from scratch,” Stewart tweeted Sunday. “I’m asking…How would you design/optimize a visit to the gynecologist’s office? Problems? Frustrations? Solutions? No detail is too small.”
Stewart announced in September that he would soon be leaving his current employer in Louisville, Kentucky, to open his own practice in Indianapolis after his wife obtained an assistant professor position within the Obstetrics & Gynecology Department at the Indiana School of Medicine. He hopes to open the Midwest Center for Pelvic Health, where he’ll continue his work as a urogynecologist that diagnoses and treats pelvic floor conditions in early 2022.
From ditching paper gowns to offering pain management, patients had a number of ways to make a visit to the gynecologist’s office less stressful.
Let’s talk about those paper gowns
Unsurprisingly, Twitter users had a lot to say about the thin paper gowns patients are asked to change into for exams. While many suggested doing away with them altogether (“My Gyn recently changed to spa-style robes. What a difference!” one Twitter user noted.) others asked for larger gowns or the ability to discreetly choose the size gown they felt most comfortable in.
“[Patients] come in all shapes and sizes,” one user tweeted. “Please have gowns that fit for multiple sizes. It would be nice to not have to wear paper as well.”
Others asked for a dedicated space to change, store their clothing, and clean up that wouldn’t leave them stressed that a doctor or nurse could throw open the door at any minute. “Changing room *inside* exam room where you can store your clothes,” one person tweeted. “That little pile of clothing with undies that you have to place on a chair is demoralizing. Maybe even have en-suite changing room/toilet to clean up goo.”
Speaking of size, re-think weigh-ins and emphasis on weight
Twitter users also encouraged Stewart to re-think traditional practices of weighing patients before bringing them into the exam room. Some suggesting having “a weight neutral office” and only weigh patients when medically necessary. Others suggested he find ways to weigh patients that allowed them to easily opt-out of seeing or being told the number.
“Having suffered from anorexia, weighing myself is a trigger for spiraling negative thoughts,” one Twitter user wrote. “If you must weigh someone, allow them to opt-out of seeing/hearing it, and only discuss it with them if you are concerned.”
More diverse imagery and inclusion training for staff
One Twitter user asked Stewart to consider placing more diverse imagery throughout his office as a way of making his practice feel more inclusive. “Please have images of Black women in the office,” one person tweeted. “I haven’t visited a gynecologist's office yet with this type of representation.”
Another user urged Stewart to ensure he and his staff underwent diversity and inclusion training to ensure all patients were treated with respect and care. “Physical space is important, but invest in comprehensive training for your staff to ensure the safety of BIPOC, queer, disabled, and other marginalized patients,” they tweeted. “This is essential… Have marginalized folks on your staff and support them. Let us see people like us in your office.”
Turn up the heat!
A number of Twitter users questioned why gynecologists’ offices always feel so cold (especially when all you have to wear is a thin paper gown) and suggested Stewart turn up the heat. “Please keep the room warm,” one person tweeted. “We already feel vulnerable enough in the tiny napkin dress staring down the stirrups and scary equipment.”
Others suggested investing in things that could be used to keep patients warm such as a stock of warm blankets. “How about heated examination tables and warm blankets like those we used to keep in L&D for new moms?” one user queried.
Patients want health professional who listen and believe them
But along with offering suggestions for how to better design and equip a gynecologist’s office, Twitter users also had advice for how patient care could be improved. Overwhelmingly, Twitter users wanted health care professionals who really listened to them and believed them when they said they knew what their reproductive plans were, especially when those plans included tubal ligation.
“Believe a woman if she says she does not want children,” one Twitter user suggested. “I knew 25 years ago and was denied this service. I still do not have children.”
Another Twitter user shared they’d had to wait more than 10 years before they’d found a doctor who believed them when they said they did not ever want children. “What a waste,” they wrote. “How insulting too.”
Don’t wait until patients ask for pain management
Patients also overwhelmingly encouraged Stewart to offer pain relief or pain management to patients undergoing procedures like a cervical biopsy, Essure implantation, IUD insertion or removal, and more. “Any pain management treatments at all for procedures would be light years ahead of everything I’ve experienced in my life,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Don’t make people ask/have to know to ask,” another user added.