Participants’ Experiences of a Sexual Counseling Intervention During Cardiac Rehabilitation: A Nested Qualitative Study Within the CHARMS Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

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Abstract

Background:

International guidelines recommend sexual assessment and counseling be offered to all patients with cardiovascular disease during cardiac rehabilitation. However, sexual problems are infrequently addressed. The Cardiac Health and Relationship Management and Sexuality (CHARMS) intervention is a complex, multilevel intervention designed to increase the provision of sexual counseling in cardiac rehabilitation. It was piloted in 2 cardiac rehabilitation centers to assess the acceptability and feasibility of the intervention and to inform and refine a definitive cluster randomized controlled trial protocol.

Objectives:

The aim of this study was to explore the experiences, perceptions, and opinions of patients, partners, and cardiac rehabilitation staff who participated in the CHARMS staff-led patient education class.

Methods:

A qualitative, descriptive study using semistructured interviews to collect the data. Cardiac rehabilitation staff (n = 8) were interviewed when the intervention commenced in their center and 3 months later (n = 6). Patients (n = 19) and partners (n = 2) were interviewed after delivery of the class; 7 were interviewed again 3 months postintervention to explore temporal changes in opinions.

Results:

Most cardiac rehabilitation staff were comfortable delivering the CHARMS intervention but would prefer a less structured format. Some staff perceived discomfort among patients. Few patients reported discomfort. Most patients and partners considered that the intervention was a welcome and acceptable part of a cardiac rehabilitation program.

Conclusion:

Incorporating sexual counseling into cardiac rehabilitation programs is feasible. Although the views of the patients and staff diverged on a number of issues including the perceived comfort of patients, its inclusion was welcomed by patients and was acceptable overall to both staff and patients.

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