With much of the world shutdown, I was wondering for awhile whether my 2020 physical would even take place. I messaged my doctor's office last month inquiring if I needed to reschedule or cancel altogether, and the response was that that wasn't necessary. Prior to the exam day, I was sent a message from my doctor's office mentioning in general terms that there would be some special COVID-19 protocols in place.
Here's how the check-in process worked. Upon entering the office complex, I encountered multiple health screening stations setup for the different practices at that complex. I found my practice's table and was given a forehead temperature screening and asked the standard questions about symptoms and if I had had contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19. I answered no to all questions, was given a blue sticker, and given permission to head upstairs to the waiting room. If you were symptomatic, I'm not sure what color sticker you received or if you received one at all, but a sign said that any symptomatic patients would need to wait in their cars until they were called on their cellphones and escorted from their cars directly to their exam room.
The waiting room for asymptomatic patients was set up for social distancing with all chairs and tables in the middle of the room removed and with only a few chairs scattered around the perimeter of the room. I was wearing a mask and so were all staff and other patients who were waiting. Masks were provided for anyone who failed to bring their own.
When I was called back, I did a weight and height check in the public hallway (only removing my shoes and the contents of my pockets), before being escorted into my exam room. The nurse took my temperature orally which obviously required a brief lowering of my mask and checked my blood pressure. The nurse did state because I was receiving a physical that I would need a gown. However, because she recognized how cold the room was, and because the doctor still had one waiting patient before me, she had me stay dressed and would return about 5 minutes prior to my doctor coming in.
As is typical with my doctor, I waited and waited. I recognized the same picture of the snowy landscape with snow-covered cabin that I had seen before and it only reminded me of how cold I was. I was very grateful for the mask and the hot air it provided. There was effectively nothing that was different about the exam room or the placement of items. Gloves and lubricant, which I always recall being left out, were in the shelf. This was the only difference I saw.
After waiting about 20 minutes and getting some work emails done, the doctor, not the nurse, entered the room. He didn't mention the gown and simply asked me to sit on the table. So either he told the nurse not to bother with it, or the nurse simply forgot or mistimed when she needed to come in. Sadly, I'll never know what the gowning material was (i.e. disposable paper vs. reusable cloth). He went through the previous year's test results, my current health situation, and any concerns, and without asking me to remove anything, he began the physical exam. I was dressed in workout shorts and a t-shirt so there wasn't any bulky clothing to navigate. He started with the HEENT portion of the exam where I did have to briefly lower my mask again so he could look in my mouth. That was only time my mask had to be removed for the doctor.
After that, he listened to my heart, chest, lungs, and back with a stethoscope over my shirt. He then had me lie down and felt the pulses in my neck and also listened to my neck with a stethoscope which I don't recall him doing before. He then did a very brief abdominal exam, palpating me through my shirt and not lifting it at all. He then checked the pulse in my ankles before having me sit up. Once sitting up, he checked leg strength by having me extend once leg at a time forward while he tried pushing down. He then checked arm strength by having me make a muscle and resist his presses inward, then outward.
He then initiated the next part of the exam by informing me "I recommend a testicle exam." I thought this was odd phrasing as he wasn't asking permission (he was gathering the gloves as he said it) and it's a portion of the exam that has always been standard with him. He told me to stand up and stand over where he was (a diagonal move about 3 feet from the exam table). Once his gloves were on, I lowered my shorts without explicit direction to do so and he commenced by checking each testicle fairly thoroughly. The room was still brisk, so that, combined with the my body's involuntary reactions, caused my testes to retract slightly. I certainly wasn't as tight as I have been at my tightest but still tight enough that I could really feel the palpation. After checking my testicles, he did a quick hernia exam on each side asking me to cough once each time. After that he told me he was done and I could pull my shorts up.
I was sent to the lab to get my blood drawn and that was the end.
Overall, a quite unusual experience. The physical itself was normal; however, the incident with the gown was unusual and of course the over-arching situation with COVID-19 made it feel quite different from previous years. Seeing bare waiting rooms and everyone masked was quite surreal for me, especially since I've almost never been out of the house in the last 2 months. My doctor did mention that it could be the new normal for the next 12 or even 24 months and that there was no way of telling now whether a second or multiple waves were coming and if infection numbers would shoot up or begin dropping or stay steady.
I don't want to say this with a "woe-is-me" attitude, but despite the precautions and strange atmosphere, it was actually nice getting out of the house and interacting with other people not my direct family. With all interaction with people (excluding direct family) limited to a screen, seeing and talking to physical human beings was a welcomed change - and this is coming from a self-proclaimed homebody and introvert.
I wonder what atmosphere and situation my 2021 physical will be conducted under...