Reflecting on the Women’s Sexual Health Course for NPs

NPWH and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) hosted the fifth annual Women’s Sexual Health Course for NPs in June. Samantha Tojino, NP-C, FNP, DNP-s, first attended the course in 2013 and returned this year as a faculty member. She reflects on this year’s program and the need to have a course specifically focused on women’s sexual health.

Q: Why is the Women’s Sexual Health Course so important?

Before NPWH and ISSWSH developed the Sexual Health Course, there were no post-graduate education or training programs designed to keep nurse practitioners up to date on the latest practices and standards of care in women’s sexual health. Sexual health is critical to overall health and wellness throughout a woman’s life – from sexual debut and STD prevention through the childbearing years and continuing on through menopause and beyond. Unfortunately, few educational programs spend adequate time on this essential topic.

Q: Who can benefit from the Sexual Health Course?

NPs are the ideal practitioners to address sexual health needs. With their ability to have intimate conversations with patients about sometimes taboo and difficult subjects and their clinical experience with women of all ages, NPs offer a knowledgeable and caring approach to sexual health. But the Sexual Health Course isn’t just for women’s health NPs. It is a valuable complement for all nurse practitioners who deal with women’s health, including FNP, AGNPs, and CNMs.

Q: What’s unique about the instruction offered by the Women’s Sexual Health Course?

The Sexual Health Course was created by NPs recognized as sexual health experts for NPs wanting to enhance their competence in women’s sexual health. With input from both NPs and physicians, the course focuses on the knowledge and skills advanced practice nurses can include in daily practice to enhance women’s sexual health as well as specialty knowledge geared to identifying and treating women with sexual dysfunction.  The course includes content on hormone therapy specifically geared to nurse practitioner management of sexual function and dysfunction as well as training in detailed vulvar, vaginal, and pelvic examination. The vulvoscopy workshop provides a hands-on approach for providers, enabling them to evaluate epithelial dermatologic conditions during the vaginal exam. Participants are guided by experts in the field.

Q: Has interest in the Sexual Health Course changed over the years?

Yes, course offerings – and the number of participants – have grown significantly since 2013. As our program grows, more providers are taking advantage of this opportunity to better serve our patients.

Q: What were the key takeaways for participants this year?

  1. Women’s sexual health is a complex subject! Nurse practitioner education and experience lead to better patient outcomes.
  2. Sexual health is a basic human right and a vital component of overall lifelong wellness.
  3. Female sexual dysfunction can affect quality of life for a woman and her partner – but nurse practitioners can help.
  4. With the knowledge gained from this course, nurse practitioners are more confident in their ability to address, diagnose, and treat their patients’ sexual health concerns.

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