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Syphilis Screening Practices of Family Care Providers

Pinto, Casey N. PhD, MPH, CRNP; Sneeringer, Katie MPH; Muller, Alison MLS, MSPH

Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice: July 2019 - Volume 27 - Issue 4 - p 201–204
doi: 10.1097/IPC.0000000000000728
Original Articles

Background The incidence of syphilis has doubled since 2000 and continues to increase. Improving syphilis screening practices is an important factor in controlling the spread. The major predictors of syphilis screening among family care providers were investigated.

Methods A cross-sectional pilot survey consisting of 27 questions was administered electronically to 3 major health systems located in central Pennsylvania. The target population consisted of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Statistical tests were performed to measure the associations between the predictors and the primary outcome variable of syphilis screening rate.

Results Fifty-two surveys were completed and included. There was no significant association between provider type or provider-patient contact time with syphilis screening rate (P > 0.05). A positive relationship between providers who reported having a standard spoken phrase for sexual health queries and syphilis screening rate trended toward significance (P = 0.07). Qualitative data indicated some provider bias in screening patients only when they are symptomatic or during well woman visits.

Conclusions Family care providers who have a standard spoken phrase when addressing sexual health are more likely to ask sexual behavior questions and are more likely to screen for syphilis. Biased screening practices are aimed at women, despite higher syphilis prevalence in men, demonstrating a need for increased efforts to educate providers about syphilis, and provide training programs to encourage the assessment of patient risk for exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.

From the Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine, Penn State University, Hershey, PA.

Correspondence to: Casey N. Pinto, PhD, MPH, CRNP, Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine, Penn State University, A210, 2404 ASB, 90 Hope Dr, Hershey, PA 17033. E-mail:

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to declare.

Online date: June 5, 2019

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