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YNHHS launches chaperone policy to enhance safety, comfort 

A new Yale New Haven Health policy on the use of medical chaperones aims to provide a safe, comfortable environment for patients, while also ensuring a positive experience for providers.

A medical chaperone acts as a witness for a patient and health professional during a medical examination or procedure. The new policy requires medical chaperones during any “sensitive” exam, treatment or procedure – such as any physical exam of the genitalia or rectum or female breasts. These procedures include: 

  • Pelvic examination
  • Intravaginal physical therapy 
  • Examinations, treatments or procedures of or involving the external genitalia (including urinary catheterization)
  • Examinations, treatments or procedures of the female patient’s breast(s)
  • Rectal examinations, treatments or procedures (including rectal tube insertion)

Medical chaperones will also be available during any other exam, treatment or procedure at the patient’s request. Providers should inform patients that they are entitled to have a chaperone present. 

“Medical chaperones promote an overall sense of safety and comfort for patients,” said Christian Pettker, MD, Yale New Haven Hospital chief of Obstetrics and YNHHS associate chief quality officer. “Their presence can also help prevent misunderstandings of physician intentions, while protecting the patient’s dignity during sensitive exams and procedures. Using chaperones during these examinations will help foster a safe environment and build a foundation of trust and confidence with our patients.”

The medical chaperone will be a YNHHS or Yale University employee or member of the medical staff who will stand in a location where they can observe and assist as needed. While friends and family may be invited to stay at the patient’s request, they will not be considered chaperones for patients over age 13. For patients under 13, a guardian may remain in the room and act as the chaperone. However, the patient or provider performing the exam, treatment or procedure may request a chaperone in addition to the guardian. 

YNHHS providers may also request a chaperone during any exam, treatment or procedure. If the patient declines a chaperone in this situation, the YNHHS provider may decline to perform the examination, treatment or procedure.

When using a medical chaperone, the provider should complete proper documentation, particularly following sensitive examinations and procedures. Providers should document all conversations with and wishes of the patient, along with any people present for each interaction. In emergency cases when a chaperone is required by the policy but is not immediately available, the provider should proceed with the exam, treatment or procedure and document the situation.

Information about policy implementation will be disseminated at each delivery network in the coming months. For details on the chaperone policy, contact Dr. Pettker or David Depukat, RN, director, Accreditation and Regulatory Affairs, YNHHS.