Aim and objectivesTo illuminate nurses’ experiences and opportunities to discuss sexual health with patients in primary healthcare.
BackgroundSexual 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 healthcare to patients.
DesignA qualitative descriptive design.
MethodSemi-structured interviews were conducted with nine nurses in primary healthcare in Sweden. Data were analysed by using qualitative content analysis.
ResultsDuring the analysis phase, five subcategories and two main categories were identified. The two main categories were: “Factors that influence nurses’ opportunities to talk 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 if 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.
ConclusionNurses in primary care express the necessity of additional education and knowledge on the subject of sexual health. The healthcare organization must be reformed to put focus on sexual health.
Relevance for clinical practiceGuidelines 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.