• Interpretive phenomenology;
  • pelvic examination;
  • professional patient;
  • qualitative study;
  • women’s experience

Objectives  To identify and describe the experience of being a professional patient (PP) in teaching the pelvic examination (PE).

Design  Qualitative study using in-depth interviews.

Setting  Participant’s home, place of work or other place of choice.

Population  Thirteen female PPs who teach the PE to medical students and student midwives.

Method  Semi-structured interviews analysed with an interpretive phenomenological approach.

Main outcome measures  Five themes were identified during the analysis: ‘embodied knowledge’, ‘promoting a proper approach’, ‘redrawing private boundaries’, ‘feeling confident’ and ‘doing something meaningful’. The essence ‘experience of stronger and clearer perception of self’ emerged from the themes and is the described structure of the lived experience of the women who are PP.

Conclusions  Being a PP in this setting was beneficial for the women. They acquired increased knowledge about their bodies and PE procedure, which led to a new awareness of their own body. Contributing to students’ learning in such an intimate examination procedure was rewarding and increased self-esteem.