My original blog topic was an extension of Sandra's with a focus on culture and sexuality in Kenya. I typed my blog and saved it as a word document on my laptop ready to post on my designated blog date.
On Monday afternoon one of the staff assistants where I work asked if I could fill in as the guest speaker for the staff assistant retreat (target audience being female aged 35-55), since the scheduled presenter canceled. The retreat was Tuesday, less than 24 hours away. I asked if I could choose the topic. I ran a few ideas by her. She declined each of my suggestions and said that the subject matter I was focusing on would make everyone uncomfortable. Even though my certification as a nurse practitioner is in family practice, I have been exclusive to college and women's health for the past 9 years. All of my suggestions for the presentation were related to sexual health. The staff assistant was adamant that any female sexual health topic would not be well received. We agreed I would speak on Lyme's disease.
I started a literature search knowing that I had only a few hours to prepare for a fun afternoon workshop on Lyme's Disease. It is ironic that my computer has never experienced problems with the many human sexuality literature searches I have explored. Early in my Lyme's Disease literature search my computer crashed. Presently my computer is still under care of the IT Department who said it received a virus from one of the Lyme's sites I visited. This conundrum left me with no computer to prep for the Lyme's Disease workshop and no means of retrieving my previously completed blog. I learned 2 valuable lessons. First, I should always back up my material and second, I should never assume people have comfort with human sexuality issues.
Chris spoke about sexuality education training for practitioners in her blog. I challenge each of you to assist your clients/patients with being comfortable in discussing human sexuality issues.
Patient comfort in sharing sexual information is important to the client - practitioner relationship. Less than 1/3 of patients feel comfortable discussing sexual concerns with their providers, with only 10% of patients spontaneously discussing concerns if not prompted by their provider (Parish & Clay, 2007). Often when the office visit is complete and the practitioner and patient are exiting the exam room a "by the way..." conversation about a sexual concern begins. Embarrassment and lack of time is evident.
Patient comfort is important to alleviate embarrassment and establish a positive provider-client relationship. Patient comfort can be established by respecting diversity, offering an open environment for discussion and sincerity to understand other attitudes, beliefs, opinions and behaviors.
Prior to the Lyme's Disease workshop, the staff assistant told the audience our story of my ideas for a topic and her concerns about my choices. I then mentioned that if I started to feel uncomfortable talking about Lyme's Disease, I might have to change the subject to my comfort zone of human sexuality issues. The audience enjoyed our opening and suggested I pick the topic next time:)
Please feel free to explore more about patient comfort in addressing human sexuality issues with providers in the article listed below.
Parish, S. & Clayton, A. H. (2007). Sexual medicine education: review and commentary. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 4(2), 259-267.