Critical thinking and diagnostic reasoning for advanced clinical practitioners in sexual health
This article provides an overview of key areas within sexual health examination, diagnosis and treatment options for advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) working outside this field of practice, who may not often encounter consultations of a sexual health nature. ACPs require an understanding of appropriate and necessary investigations, alongside specific advice or education they can offer patients. Within a sexual health context especially, the consultation and subsequent steps can be challenging and distressing for the patient, and the ACP must consider their knowledge and experience when caring for a patient in this area. Increasing knowledge and awareness of common conditions and treatments, red flags, and referral processes can allow the ACP to provide reassurance and support to the patient and improve their healthcare experience. Having answers to a patient's questions regarding processes and time frames can strengthen the relationship between the ACP and their patient and help reduce a patient's anxiety and fear of the unknown.
During a consultation with a sexual health focus, advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) will consider the next steps to follow as part of their line of inquiry: this includes appropriate and required investigations, advice or education required for the patient and/or referral to other services. It is especially the case that, within a sexual health context, the consultation and subsequent steps can be challenging and distressing for the patient, so the ACP must consider their knowledge and experience when caring for a patient in this area.
This article is the second in a series on the subject and seeks to provide an overview of some key areas to consider following the sexual health history take. The first covered the consultation and clinical assessment process (McPhillips and Wood, 2022). This article is particularly aimed at those ACPs working outside this field of practice, who may not often encounter consultations of a sexual health nature as a first presentation. The article does not aim to offer comprehensive guidance and ACPs should always work within their own scope of competence (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2018, Health and Care Professions Council, 2018).
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