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ORIGINAL RESEARCH—EDUCATION: Recommendations for Improving Sexual Health Curricula in Medical Schools: Results from a Two-Arm Study Collecting Data from Patients and Medical Students

Authors


Judith Gerber, PhD, FAHC, Dept of Women's Health, 352 MP4 Medical Center Campus 111 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3456. Tel: 802-847-1400; Fax: 802-847-8433; E-mail: judith.gerber@vtmednet.org

ABSTRACT

Introduction.  Although patients commonly have sexual concerns, providers often feel uncomfortable or inadequately trained to address these concerns.

Aims.  The first aim of this study was to determine how patients most prefer to receive sexual health information and how provider characteristics affect patient comfort. The second aim was to look at the sexual health curriculum at one medical school and determine its effectiveness. The third aim was to incorporate student and patient responses to create guidelines for more effective sexual health curricula.

Methods.  Undergraduate and graduate students served as the study sample in arm one (N = 501). Medical students in their third and fourth year served as the study sample in arm two (N = 125). Participants were surveyed anonymously using standard forms.

Main Outcome Measures.  A cross-sectional descriptive analysis was generated from all collected data using SPSS software.

Results.  Patients most prefer to receive sexual health information from their provider who initiates the conversation (45.1%) and least prefer information from the Internet (25.4%). Patients are most comfortable with providers who are “knowledgeable about sexual concerns” (74.5%) and “seem comfortable addressing sexual concerns” (68.3%). The majority of medical students (75.2%) feels that taking a sexual history will be an important part of their future careers, yet only 57.6% feel adequately trained to do so. Furthermore, 68.8% feel that addressing and treating sexual concerns will be an important part of their future careers, and only 37.6% feel adequately trained to do so.

Conclusion.  Patients prefer to receive sexual health information from knowledgeable providers who are comfortable with sexual health. Current medical students see value in sexual health curricula and feel this training will be important to their future careers, however, they feel inadequately trained. Sexual health curricula must be modified for increased effectiveness with additional lectures and opportunity for students to practice these skills. Wittenberg A, and Gerber J. Recommendations for improving sexual health curricula in medical schools: Results from a two-arm study collecting data from patients and medical students. J Sex Med 2009;6:362–368.

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