Discussing a sensitive topic: Nurse practitioners' and physician assistants' communication strategies in managing patients with erectile dysfunction

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Purpose:To examine strategies used by nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) when discussing the sensitive topic of erectile dysfunction (ED) with patients.Data sources:A total of 456 NPs and PAs combined responded to a 22-item online survey posted on NP and PA association websites.Conclusions:Four derived categories reflect communication strategies that NPs and PAs applied when addressing ED: initiating the topic directly, initiating the topic with an introduction, initiating the topic when there is a high risk factor, and allowing the patient to bring up the topic. There was also interest in continuing education on the topic of ED and a perceived need for greater emphasis on developing communication strategies within the patient–provider relationship.Implications for practice:There is no one best way to address the topic and different situations may require an approach best suited to the specifics of the situation. Therefore, no single “best practice” of discussing sensitive topics can be identified. Critical thinking skills and the ability to comprehend the totality of the situation are likely to be of higher importance.

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