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Keywords:

  • Anaesthesia;
  • medical student;
  • vagina examination

Medical students usually initially learn vaginal examination (VE) by examining consenting anaesthetised women. To assess their experience of this practice, a questionnaire was distributed to all 66 fifth-year students at the Wellington School of Medicine in 2005—53 students responded. Although 184 women were available to approach for consent, only 141 were approached—students claimed insufficient time as their major difficulty. All male students discussed consent with women only in the 2 hours preoperatively, whereas nine (28%) of the female students sought consent earlier on the day or the day before. Of the 114 women asked, 97 gave written consent, but the VE was conducted in only 76 women mostly because the supervising gynaecologist claimed time constraints or was uninterested. Four other women were examined when consent was uncertain and two without consent. All but one of the students considered the experience educationally valuable. Eleven responding students did not perform a VE, and if the 13 nonresponders also did not, more than one-third of students lack this educational opportunity prior to their final year. In conclusion, some students require more commitment to seeking consent, and some gynaecologists may need to better facilitate this learning opportunity so that the consent agreed with the woman and student is more often respected.