Findings from a recent study suggests that a sexual health education program for oncology nurses may be beneficial in improving knowledge and removing barriers to conversations between nurses and patients regarding sexual health concerns. These findings were published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.

A total of 65 oncology nurses were participants in this University of California Irvine-based study of communication patterns and limitations regarding patients’ sexual health concerns. Nurses were surveyed at baseline, directly after intervention, and at 3- and 6-month time points following intervention. The intervention in this study was a sexual health education workshop. This involved a “train-the-trainer” protocol administered to 14 oncology nurse managers, and others, who then trained the oncology nurses on sexual health communication during 4-hour workshops.

Several self-reported measures were evaluated using numeric scales specific to each metric. Metrics involved knowledge of the impacts of cancer on sexual health, barriers to conversations with patients about sexuality, and the frequency of conversations about sexual health.

The average score for knowledge of sexual health was 8.5 at baseline, and it increased to 10.9 following intervention, reflecting an improvement. This score was 10.8 at both 3 and 6 months (P <.001 for each score compared with baseline).


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The average score for barriers to discussing sexuality was 60.1 at baseline, and this decreased to 44.1 following intervention, reflecting an improvement. This score at 3 months was 46.8, and it was 45.3 at 6 months (P <.001 for each score compared with baseline).

The frequency of discussing sexual concerns had been ranked as never/rarely, sometimes, or often/always. At baseline, the score for a frequency of “never/rarely” was 39, compared with 23 for a frequency of “sometimes,” and 3 for a frequency of “often/always.” Improvements were seen at 3 months, with scores of 17, 36, and 12, respectively. Improvements appeared to be maintained at 6 months.

“The results of this study revealed that the sexual health education workshop intervention improved nurses’ self-reported knowledge of sexual health and decreased barriers to engaging patients with cancer in discussions about their sexual health concerns,” wrote the study investigators in their report.

Reference

Al Eid K, Christensen S, Hoff J, et al. Sexual health education: knowledge level of oncology nurses and barriers to discussing concerns with patients. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2020;24(4):E50-E56. doi:10.1188/20.CJON.E50-E56