A medical chaperone is a trained professional SHS staff member who acts as an extra set of eyes and ears during a sensitive exam or procedure. 
Their presence is to support both the student and the health care provider.

A sensitive exam involves body parts typically covered by undergarments, including breasts, genitals, buttocks, groin/pubic region, and rectal area.

SHS acknowledges that a student’s personal and cultural standards may broaden their own definition of a sensitive examination; chaperones will be provided for any examination on request.

Sensitive examinations and procedures include

  1. Pelvic examinations
  2. Examinations, treatments, or procedures of or involving the internal or external genitalia
  3. Examinations, treatments, or procedures of the breast(s)
  4. Rectal examinations, treatments, or procedures


Students undergoing a sensitive exam at SHS will have a chaperone present during their exam.

Family members and friends cannot act as a chaperone

What do medical chaperones do?

The chaperone is a specially trained member of the SHS team. Their job is to ensure student and provider comfort, safety, privacy, security, and dignity during sensitive exams or procedures. The chaperone will stand in an obtrusive location where he/she/they can observe what is going on and assist as needed. 

The chaperone will

  • only be in the examination room during the sensitive portion of the exam
  • be respectful and sensitive to the student's dignity and confidentiality
  • be familiar with the steps of a sensitive examination
  • be prepared to raise concerns about a provider's behavior or actions
  • be available to assist and support the student and the provider

Medical Chaperone FAQ 

Yes. You can request a chaperone for any type of exam.

Yes. You can opt-out after discussing the nature of the exam with the provider. The healthcare provider may also decide not to perform an exam or procedure unless a chaperone is present.

No, a chaperone is a specially trained staff member of Student Health. 

Yes. It is important to us that you feel comfortable with and respected by the clinical chaperone.  If you prefer a chaperone of a specific gender, let us know and we will do our best to honor your request. If SHS is unable to accommodate, you may choose to move forward with the visit with a chaperone not of your preferred gender or may reschedule the appointment to a time when SHS can accommodate the request. 

An explanation of the exam, including why it is needed, what the provider will do, and what it may feel like.
Privacy to undress and dress. You should NOT be asked to undress or dress in front of a provider or other staff member.
You will be given a covering (gown or sheet/drape) that allows you adequate cover for the exposed part(s) of your body.
You have the right to refuse any portion of an exam or stop it at any time.  

Please speak up if you feel uncomfortable or notice any odd behavior during your exam or procedure. If you feel you would like to give feedback about your visit and/or examination, please fill out the patient feedback form or report sexual misconduct 

Guide to Sensitive Examinations:
Why they are done and what to expect

Why: A pelvic exam is recommended whenever you have symptoms such as vaginal pain, itching or sores, abnormal vaginal discharge, abnormal vaginal bleeding, or pelvic pain. Sometimes, urinary symptoms also require a pelvic exam to help evaluate their cause. Pelvic exams are also routinely done when you have no symptoms but are due for cervical cancer screening – recommended starting at age 21. 

What: You will be undressed fully from the waist down and will have a drape to cover your abdomen and legs. You will be lying on the exam table with your bottom at the edge of the table and your legs open with the heels of your feet resting in supports called stirrups. For some people, this can feel awkward or vulnerable, so make sure you are checking in with yourself and your clinician. It is crucial that you feel in charge of what happens to your body. Your clinician will be wearing gloves throughout this entire exam and will always tell you what they are going to do before they do it. In general, the first step is to visually inspect the outer vagina (the skin and pubic hair region, then the vulva, including the labia, the clitoris, and the vaginal opening), the area between your vagina and your anus (perineum), and your anus. They will then examine the inside of your vaginal canal using a speculum, which is an instrument shaped like a duck’s bill that will be put into the vagina and opened just enough to provide full visualization of the sidewalls of the vagina and the cervix. Sometimes your clinician will need to reposition you or the speculum to ensure full visualization. Your clinician may take samples of the cells of your cervix using a soft plastic brush (a pap test) or samples of the fluid within your vagina using a Qtip-like brush (to test for infections and yeast/bacterial overgrowth). In some circumstances, your clinician might recommend a “bimanual examination.” This is an examination to evaluate your internal pelvic organs (uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, etc.). Your clinician will stand at your feet and then put one or two gloved fingers into your vagina to stabilize your uterus while using the other hand to push down lightly over your lower abdomen to check for tenderness and to assess the size and position of your pelvic organs. 

How long: This exam takes 5 minutes, sometimes less.

Why: This exam might be recommended if you are having lower abdominal pains, unusual lower back pains, urinary discomfort, blood in your stool, any symptoms on your buttocks or around your anus such as rashes, sores, lumps, itching, discomfort, or swelling. 

What: Depending on what you are wearing, you may be asked to undress and given a drape, or asked to move your clothes aside for the exam. Depending on your symptoms, you may be asked to lie on the exam table on your side with your knees curled into your chest or you may be asked to stand and bend over the exam table. Using gloved hands, your clinician will examine the skin of your buttocks then gently spread your buttocks and anal tissue to allow a thorough visual inspection. They will then use their finger to manually inspect the outer anal tissue. If more information is needed, your clinician may recommend a “digital rectal exam,” which involves gently introducing a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to palpate for abnormalities and (if applicable) prostate tissue. Additionally, your clinician may recommend an “anoscopy,” which involves inserting a small plastic lubricated hollow tube (about an inch wide) into your rectum to allow better visualization of the tissue inside. If necessary, your clinician may use a small swab to collect cells or fluid from inside the anus for laboratory analysis. 

How long: This exam takes about 2-3 minutes.

Why: This exam is generally recommended when you have a symptom in the area, like a rash, an itch, or discomfort. It is also performed if your clinician needs to check for hernias or needs to check the arteries providing blood flow to your legs (such as for a sports physical) or for swollen lymph nodes. 

What: You may be lying on the exam table or you may be standing up for this exam. Depending on what you are wearing, you may be asked to undress and given a drape or shorts to wear, or you may be simply asked to move your clothes slightly away from the area to be examined. Your clinician will visually inspect the skin (sometimes using a magnifying glass) and then palpate the area with the gloved fingers. 

How long: This exam should take 1-2 minutes.

Why: This exam is recommended if you report any symptoms such as genital rash, penile discharge, urinary discomfort, testicular pain, swelling, or lump. It is also routinely done to check for hernias and as part of a full physical exam. 

What: You may be lying on the exam table or standing, depending on what your symptoms are. You will typically be asked to lower your shorts or pants. Your clinician will be wearing gloves for this exam. They will start by visually inspecting your penis and scrotum. If your penis is uncircumcised, your clinician may ask you to retract your foreskin to allow full visualization of the penis. They may also need to reposition your penis or touch the tip of your penis to check for discharge. Your clinician will then feel the contents of your scrotum, including your testicles. Occasionally, special tests will be performed, such as shining a bright light through the scrotum to look for fluid or lightly touching the inner thigh to observe for a reflexive retraction of the testicle. If there is any discharge from the urethra, a sample of it may be collected for laboratory analysis. It is not rare to experience an erection with this examination, as erections can be triggered by anxiety or as a simple reflex to touch. If this happens, please know this is very normal.

How long: This exam takes 2-3 minutes.

Why: Breast exams are recommended if you report a symptom or concern, such as a breast lump, rash, nipple discharge, or breast pain. If you have a family history of breast issues or are at an age when breast cancer screening is recommended, your clinician may also recommend a breast exam. Lastly, if you have questions as to how to perform your own breast exam, your clinician may do a breast exam to educate you on how to monitor your breasts.

What: You will asked to remove any undergarments such as a bra, and will either be given a gown or simply asked to lift your shirt out of the way. Your clinician may first inspect your breasts visually—oftentimes when you are sitting and then lying on your back. Your clinician might ask you to raise your arms above your head or bend forward to assess for changes in your breasts as you change position. Then, your clinician will ask you to lay back and put one arm above your head. They will use their fingertips to check your whole breast tissue for abnormalities that aren’t visible and will also check under your arms for any enlarged lymph nodes. Your clinician will also examine your nipple area and possibly press the nipple to check for any discharge. They will repeat this exam on the other side.

How long: This exam takes about 3-5 minutes.