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Sexual Counseling in Patients With Heart Failure

A Silent Phenomenon

Results From a Convergent Parallel Mixed Method Study

Kolbe, Nina MScN; Kugler, Christiane PhD; Schnepp, Wilfried PhD; Jaarsma, Tiny PhD

doi: 10.1097/JCN.0000000000000215
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Background: Patients with heart failure (HF) often worry about resuming sexual activity and may need information. Nurses have a role in helping patients to live with the consequences of HF and can be expected to discuss patients’ sexual concerns.

Objective: The aims of this study were to identify whether nurses discuss consequences of HF on sexuality with patients and to explore their perceived role and barriers regarding this topic.

Methods: A cross-sectional research design with a convergent parallel mixed method approach was used combining qualitative and quantitative data collected with a self-reported questionnaire.

Results: Nurses in this study rarely addressed sexual issues with their patients. The nurses did not feel that discussing sexual concerns with their patients was their responsibility, and only 8% of the nurses expressed confidence to do so. The main phenomenon in discussing sexual concerns seems to be “one of silence”: Neither patients nor nurses talk about sexual concerns. Factors influencing this include structural barriers, lack of knowledge and communication skills, as well as relevance of the topic and relationship to patients.

Conclusion: Cardiac nurses in Germany rarely practice sexual counseling. It is a phenomenon that is silent. Education and skill-based training might hold potential to “break the silence.”

Nina Kolbe, MScN Research Assistant, Department of Nursing Science, University of Applied Science, St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Christiane Kugler, PhD Professor in Nursing Science, Chair of Acute Care, Department of Nursing Science, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany.

Wilfried Schnepp, PhD Professor in Nursing Science, Chair of Family and Community-based Nursing, Department of Nursing Science, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany.

Tiny Jaarsma, PhD Professor in Caring Sciences, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköping University, Norrköping, Sweden.

This study was part of the nurse training fellowship award of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.

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

Correspondence Nina Kolbe, MScN, FHS St. Gallen, Department of Nursing Science, University of Applied Science, Rosenbergstrasse 59, Postfach, 9001 St. Gallen, Switzerland (nina.kolbe@fhsg.ch).

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