Discussing sexuality with patients: nurses' attitudes and beliefs

J Adv Nurs. 2010 Jun;66(6):1308-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05260.x. Epub 2010 Apr 1.


Aim: This paper is a report of a study of Registered Nurses' attitudes and beliefs towards discussing sexuality with patients.

Background: The World Health Organization regards sexuality as an essential and integrated part of being human. Studies show that diseases and treatments can affect sexuality and that a positive and respectful attitude towards sexuality is important to achieving sexual health.

Method: The study had a correlative and comparative design. The Sexual Attitudes and Beliefs Survey was distributed to a convenience sample of 100 Swedish nurses in 2006, with a response rate of 88%.

Results: Over 90% of nurses understood how patients' diseases and treatment might affect their sexuality. About two-thirds felt comfortable talking about sexual issues and agreed that it was their responsibility to encourage talk about sexual concerns. However, 80% did not take time to discuss sexual concerns, and 60% did not feel confident in their ability to address patients' sexual concerns. Older nurses felt more confident in their ability to address patients' sexual concerns, and the older the nurses, the more positive were their attitudes towards discussing sexuality. Nurses with further education also had a more positive attitude towards discussing sexuality.

Conclusion: Education is essential to improve nurses' ability to give patients the holistic care they deserve. Studies are needed to understand fully what mechanisms underlie the barriers that clearly prevent nurses from addressing patients' sexuality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Sex Counseling*
  • Sexuality* / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult