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Getting BETTER: Breaking the ice and warming to the inclusion of sexuality in mental health nursing care

Authors

  • Chris Quinn,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute for Health and Social Science Research and School of Nursing and Midwifery, CQUniversity Australia
    2. Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health, Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia
      Chris Quinn, Institute for Health and Social Science Research, and School of Nursing and Midwifery, CQUniversity Australia, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, QLD 4702, Australia. Email: chris.quinn@forensicare.vic.gov.au
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  • Brenda Happell

    1. Institute for Health and Social Science Research and School of Nursing and Midwifery, CQUniversity Australia
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  • Chris Quinn, RN, DAS (Nurs), Grad Dip (MHN).

  • Brenda Happell, RN, RPN, BA (Hons), Dip Ed, BEd, MEd, PhD.

Chris Quinn, Institute for Health and Social Science Research, and School of Nursing and Midwifery, CQUniversity Australia, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, QLD 4702, Australia. Email: chris.quinn@forensicare.vic.gov.au

ABSTRACT

Discussing sexual issues with consumers is considered a nursing role, yet it is commonly avoided. Research suggests that sexual issues and difficulties are particularly evident in mental health settings, and failure to address these issues represents a significant gap in care and treatment. Specific models for raising sexual issues have been used in oncology and cardiac care settings to assist clinicians. A descriptive, exploratory study was conducted with mental health nurses from Queensland, Australia. The aim of this research was to explore whether a specific model, the BETTER model (bring up, explain, tell, time, educate, record) was useful in assisting mental health nurses in raising the topic of sexuality with consumers. In-depth interviews explored participants' attitudes and experiences of discussing sexuality. Participants were introduced to the BETTER model, and were asked to trial the approach with consumers. They were then interviewed a second time. Two main themes emerged: greater awareness and becoming part of practice. Participants described a transformation of their practice from one of avoiding issues of sexuality with consumers, to a position of inclusion, which became embedded within practice. Participants did not tend to use the model in a structured way, and it appears that knowledge and awareness were more useful than the model itself.

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