Start with a Self-assessment
A good first step in becoming more comfortable talking to patients about sex is to assess your current level of comfort with discussing sexual topics. Cardea’s Sexual History Taking Toolkit includes a comfort scale assessment. Performing this exercise will help you evaluate your own readiness to talk with a patient in a variety of relevant sexual health topic areas.
Taking a Sexual History
Once you have determined your comfort level, you can practice familiarizing yourself with the sexual history-taking process. Taking Routine Histories of Sexual Health: A System-Wide Approach for Health Centers, which was developed by the National LGBT Health Education Center and National Association of Community Health Centers, details information for taking routine sexual histories with special consideration to unique populations. The Cardea Sexual History Taking Toolkit provides clinical staff with the information they need to take a focused sexual history that will identify clients at risk for STIs and HIV. And Advocates for Youth’s Tips for Health Care Providers: Helping Teens and Parents with Sexual Health Needs provides information on special considerations for the adolescent population.
Once you have familiarized yourself with these guides, if you still feel that you could benefit from some additional strategies to increase your comfort level, there are a few options. Role playing can help you become more comfortable talking with your patients about sex. Cardea’s toolkit contains videos on different sexual health scenarios. One approach would be to practice these until you feel more at ease. You can also seek out trainings or workshops to become more knowledgeable about sexual health and various topics you may feel unprepared to address.
Know that as you engage in these discussions more frequently, they will feel more natural and your comfort level should gradually increase. You can also learn more tips for communicating with patients about sexual health here.