• coping mechanisms;
  • patient care;
  • sexuality;
  • stereotyping

• This paper presents a research study which explores the perceptions of nurses regarding sexuality related to patient care.

• A qualitative approach was taken to the research. The methodology used was grounded theory.

• The findings illustrate that nurses had difficulty dealing with issues of sexuality, and the reasons for this were complex and interrelated. Patient care was influenced by nurses' perceptions of sexuality.

• Nurses in the study did not, generally, provide patient care relating to sexuality.

• Nurses were reluctant to discuss sexuality with their patients.

• Stereotyped images of nurses, males and homosexuals were common.

• Nurses dealt with issues of patient sexuality by employing a variety of coping strategies.