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Identification of Barriers to Sexual Health Assessment in Oncology Nursing Practice

Jerelyn O. Julien

Bridgette Thom

Nancy Kline

ONF 2010, 37(3), E186-E190. DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.E186-E190

Purpose/Objectives: To explore oncology nurses' attitudes about and knowledge of sexual health. Sexual health is an integral component of quality of life, which is an Oncology Nursing Society research priority.

Design: A descriptive, cross-sectional design.

Setting: A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the northeastern United States.

Sample: A convenience sample of 576 RNs working in acute care, ambulatory, and perioperative services were approached during an annual mandatory training day.

Methods: Attitudes and beliefs about patients' sexual health assessment in nursing practice were evaluated with the Sexual Attitudes and Beliefs Survey and 10 demographic questions.

Main Research Variables: Oncology nurses' attitudes and beliefs regarding sexual health assessment of patients.

Findings: A statistically significant difference was found in scores based on age and nursing experience, whereby younger and less experienced nurses had higher scores, indicating greater discomfort in discussing sexual health with patients. Statistical significance also was found in scores based on oncology certification and practice setting, whereby oncology certified nurses and outpatient nurses identified fewer attitudinal barriers than noncertified nurses and nurses working in the inpatient setting.

Conclusions: The results suggest that this patient population may not be receiving a complete sexual health assessment.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses in the sample believed that sexuality was not too private an issue to discuss with their patients and claimed to understand how disease and treatment may affect patients' sexuality. Nurses also believed that their patients should not expect nurses to ask about their sexual concerns and often defer to the physician for any sexually related questions.

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