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Keywords:

  • attitudes;
  • consumers;
  • educational intervention;
  • nurses;
  • mental health;
  • sexuality

Abstract

Sexual issues are common for consumers of mental health services and have many adverse consequences for quality of life as well as impacting negatively on the mental illness itself. Nurses in mental health settings are well placed to assess for the presence of and provide interventions for sexual concerns. To date, little research has been undertaken to explore nurses' attitudes and whether sexual issues would be accepted as part of their care. This paper presents findings from the third stage of a qualitative, exploratory research study with mental health nurses working in an Australian mental health service. The findings from the first two stages suggested that the participants had tended to avoid discussion of sexual issues, but a brief education intervention had produced a greater willingness to address sexual issues as part of care. The aim of the third stage was to determine the degree to which changes in practice had continued over time. Two main themes that emerged from this data were: (i) holism, from rhetoric to reality; and (ii) part of what I do. Addressing sexual issues became part of practice, a change sustained 2 years following the intervention, because participants recognized its importance for holistic nursing care.