Assessing senior baccalaureate nursing students’ attitudes toward sexual health education as a nursing responsibility following a family life and sexual health education intervention
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in four adolescents has a sexually transmitted infection. Early sexual health education provided by specially trained educators has been shown to decrease early sexual debut and lower risk behaviors in adolescents. Approximately 80% of registered nurses feel sexual health education to adolescents is within their role; however, most report feeling uncomfortable or unprepared to provide the education. The purpose of this study was to measure the effectiveness of a one-hour family life and sexual health education intervention called Family Life and Sexual Health, FLASH, provided to senior-level, fourth-semester undergraduate nursing students, enrolled within two baccalaureate schools of nursing in the southeast United States, on improving scores on the Students’ Attitudes Towards Addressing Sexual Health Questionnaire, SA-SH. James’ Pragmatisms, Theory of Truth, was used to guide this mixed-methods, two-group, pretest-posttest design. Fifty-three participants were randomized into the FLASH education group and 48 participants were randomized into an attention control group who received a course in stress management for a total of 101 study participants. To prevent potential contamination, both the intervention and attention control groups received their presentations simultaneously in one, one-hour sessions during the same day, at the same time. The SA-SH was administered as a pre-test and post-test for both groups. The FLASH participants had a statistically significant improvement in total sum scores on the SA-SH Questionnaire (F (1, 41) =19, p-value <0.01). The FLASH group also demonstrated significant increases in comfort levels towards providing sexual health education in their future occupations on the questionnaire (p < 0.001). No significant differences in the groups were found in role responsibility, future working environment, or fear of negative impacts on future patient relationships. Thematic analysis of the qualitative data showed less perceived barriers in study participants who were randomized into the FLASH education intervention compared to those in the attention control stress management course. A one-hour FLASH course presented to senior-level, fourth-semester undergraduate nursing students can improve attitudes, especially comfort levels, toward providing sexual health education to fifth-grade students. Implications for nursing include incorporating sexual health education specific to the adolescent population into Baccalaureate nursing programs. These findings suggest a one-hour FLASH education intervention improves overall attitudes, comfort, and decreases perceived barriers to providing sexual health education to fifth-grade students.