Teaching sexual history taking to health care professionals in primary care

Med Educ. 2001 Jun;35(6):603-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.00926.x.


Objectives: Although it is accepted that history taking is central to correct diagnosis, little work has been undertaken on the development of sexual history taking, particularly in a primary care context where sexual health may not occur to the patient. Embarrassment is recognized as one major problem. This paper reports on a series of teaching interventions designed to help primary health care professionals (doctors and nurses) to identify and deal effectively with sexual health issues in the consultation.

Methods: 141 participants took part in nine different courses, with 114 returning evaluations. All courses involved tutorial teaching on clinical and ethicolegal issues and role play with trained professional role-players; some involved video-based dramatizations to particularize principles in context. During role play sessions, which were followed by detailed, contextualized feedback, clinical issues, attitudinal issues (e.g. articulating a sense of personal embarrassment, and the risk of stereotyping), and ethicolegal issues were all discussed, as were examples of words and phrases which participants were invited to try out.

Outcomes: The overall quality of the courses was rated by participants, on average, at 89.95 (maximum 100), and the relevance of the topic at 91.40. Free text comments centred on the power of the training as a consciousness raiser, on the need to alter communication strategies, the need to change existing clinical practice and the value of role play as a methodology. Interactive courses on sexual health are highly acceptable to participants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • England
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Role Playing
  • Sexuality*
  • Teaching / methods*