It may be a familiar scenario for some, but the question, ‘can you ask for a female doctor when you visit a clinic or hospital?’ is one that is asked often.
This request may have been granted or rejected in the past due to company policies or staffing restrictions and may have resulted in sometimes uncomfortable or confronting situations.
But today, more clinics and hospitals try their best to accommodate requests for female doctors. And often, if you are not visiting birthing suites, operating theatres or emergency rooms and are willing to wait a little longer until a female doctor is available, then your request is likely to be granted.
Choosing a GP
Finding a doctor you feel comfortable with is important for regular visits over a period of time, so selecting a doctor near you beforehand which suits your needs can be the best way to avoid this situation in many circumstances – especially if your current doctor is not up to scratch.
You can ask your current doctor for advice or recommendations when finding a new GP, as well as friends and family about their experiences with other professionals in the area.
You can also call your local Division of General Practice or the Australian General Practice Group (AGPG) about doctors practising near you, as well as their interests, expertise and languages spoken.
Finding a clinic
Asking a clinic ‘do I have the right to request a female doctor?’ before you use their services will surely help you make a decision on which you make a long-term commitment to.
This can be factored in when choosing a practice alongside other important points like distance from your home, billing options and facilities.
Asking for a female doctor can be an important request for patients who have experienced or witnessed various forms of abuse, so it’s good to know what you or someone you know can and can’t ask for depending on specific needs and requirements.
It should be noted that while doctors are bound by law and the Medical Board of Australia to respect the doctor-patient relationship, this has not always been the case.
The Medical Board of Australia says that proper medical practice means “never using your professional relationship to establish or pursue a sexual, exploitative or other inappropriate relationship with anybody under your care. This includes those close to the patient such as their carer, guardian or spouse or the parent of a child patient”. (1)
It is the Board’s priority to ensure no doctor undermines not just the confidence and trust between the public and medical practitioners but also the community and the medical profession as a whole.
But this doesn’t mean some people have not had difficult experiences when dealing with GPs in the past and patients should know that doctors can only physically examine a patient once they have announced what they are doing and with the patient’s consent.
Do I have the right to request a female doctor?
Contrary to what some may say and think, doctors do not take offence to patients requesting a doctor of the same sex. In fact, receptionists may ask at the counter or over the phone if you would prefer a female doctor.
Of course, as we covered before, a hospital or clinic’s ability to provide a female doctor at short notice will vary between practices and you should do your research into your options before committing. But that isn’t to say that many will ask for your preference.
It’s important to remember that if you do ask for a female doctor, you will not be expected to justify your request. You will still be treated professionally.
Even if you requested a female doctor and arrive for your appointment to be greeted by a male, it’s important that you remind the doctor and staff of your request. Staff at the practice will still not probe or ask for your reasoning why but will instead act professionally and look to rectify the mistake.
It’s more common than you think
While it’s hard to find an actual amount of time that patients have asked for same-sex doctors over the years, we do know that for the first time in Australian history, female doctors actually outnumber male doctors in 2017.
To finish, let’s recap: can you ask for a female doctor?
Yes! Obviously, different practices work at different capacities and have varying levels of male/female GPs, but you can nevertheless ask for a female doctor when booking an appointment. Also, if you are looking at changing GPs or practices, it’s also a good idea to ask before making any solid commitments.
Times have changed and the medical practice isn’t an old men’s club like some may remember – Australia has more female doctors than ever before. So it’s not a bad, awkward or difficult question to ask when receiving treatment.