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Stepped Skills: A team approach towards communication about sexuality and intimacy in cancer and palliative care

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Author(s): Hilde de Vocht | Amanda Hordern | Joy Notter | Harry van de Wiel

Journal: Australasian Medical Journal
ISSN 1836-1935

Volume: 4;
Issue: 11;
Start page: 610;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Sexuality | intimacy | cancer care | palliative care | communication | hermeneutics | Stepped Skills

ABSTRACT
BackgroundCancer often has a profound and enduring impact on sexuality, affecting both patients and their partners. Most healthcare professionals in cancer and palliative care are struggling to address intimate issues with the patients in their care.MethodsStudy 1: An Australian study using semi-structured interviews and documentary data analysis.Study 2: Building on this Australian study, using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, data were collected in the Netherlands through interviewing 15 cancer patients, 13 partners and 20 healthcare professionals working in cancer and palliative care. The hermeneutic analysis was supported by ATLAS.ti and enhanced by peer debriefing and expert consultation.ResultsFor patients and partners a person-oriented approach is a prerequisite for discussing the whole of their experience regarding the impact of cancer treatment on their sexuality and intimacy. Not all healthcare professionals are willing or capable of adopting such a person-oriented approach.ConclusionA complementary team approach, with clearly defined roles for different team members and clear referral pathways, is required to enhance communication about sexuality and intimacy in cancer and palliative care. This approach, that includes the acknowledgement of the importance of patients’ and partners’ sexuality and intimacy by all team members, is captured in the Stepped Skills model that was developed as an outcome of the Dutch study.

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Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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