Sexual health in primary health care – a qualitative study of nurses’ experiences.

Authors: Klaeson K, Hovlin L, GuvÄ H, Kjellsdotter A


J Clin Nurs. 2017 Jun;26(11-12):1545-1554

AIM AND OBJECTIVES: To illuminate nurses' experiences and opportunities to discuss sexual health with patients in primary health care.
BACKGROUND: Sexual health is a concept associated with many taboos, and research shows that nurses feel uncomfortable talking to patients about sexual health and therefore avoid it. This avoidance forms a barrier between patient and nurse which prevents nurses from giving satisfactory health care to patients.
DESIGN: A qualitative descriptive design.
METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine nurses in primary health care in Sweden. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: During the analysis phase, five subcategories and two main categories were identified. The two main categories were as follows: 'factors that influence nurses' opportunities of talking to patients about sexual health' and 'nurses' experiences of talking to patients about sexual health'. Social norms in society were an obstacle for health professionals' opportunities to feel comfortable and act professionally. The nurses' personal attitude and knowledge were of great significance in determining whether they brought up the topic of sexual health or not. The nurses found it easier to bring up the topic of sexual health with middle-aged men with, for example, diabetes. One reason for this is that they found it easier to talk to male patients. A further reason is the fact that they had received training in discussing matters of sexual health in relation to diabetes and other conditions affecting sexual health.
CONCLUSION: Nurses in primary care express the necessity of additional education and knowledge on the subject of sexual health. The healthcare organisation must be reformed to put focus on sexual health.
RELEVANCE FOR CLINICAL PRACTICE: Guidelines for addressing the topic of sexual health must be implemented to establish conditions that will increase nurse's knowledge and provide them with the necessary tools for discussing sexual health with patients.



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