As it’s national STI day today I decided to do my bit for breaking down the taboos of talking about sexual health openly as if we can’t do it as emerging practitioners, how can we expect our patients to?
I was lucky enough to have a spoke day placement with the Manchester Sexual Health Services and it was one of the most insightful days I’ve had in practice. I spent the day in a CASH clinic (Contraception and sexual health) and encountered all sorts of patients for all sorts of reasons. HOWEVER this wasn’t my first visit to this exact center…
As a responsible, sexually active adult I had attended one of their clinics previously for contraception and a general MOT. So when I realized I’d be on the other side of the table this time I was rather sheepish. Eventually I told the Nurse practitioner who was my mentor for the day about our previous meeting and we both had a big laugh about it.
However my visit to the CASH clinic was rather more jolly than a few of the patients we saw that day. For example I encountered a Mother of a young child who had come to find out that she had contracted Chlamydia – an extremely frighteningly common STI that often presents as symptomless (which is the scariest part, it’s like an invisible ghost). However she hadn’t had any new partners since her previous test, which was carried out when she was pregnant, as STIs can be passed on to baby during vaginal delivery so all women are screened. This therefore brought about the upsetting notion that it was her long-term partner and father of her child who had contracted and then passed on the infection to her.
Treatment for Chlamydia is extremely simple and so easy to access, just 2 tablets taken at the same time and two weeks hence you’ve got a clean bill of health! That is unless you are re-infected during the time the medication is taking effect so condoms all round for that time. Gonorrhoea is equally as terrifying as it has no symptoms in up to 50% of all infected women and 1 in 10 men. Gonorrhoea is equally as easily treated, although an injection is necessary, it is one dose of antibiotics and the infection should subside.
Both Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can go on to cause severe and long-lasting negative health effects such as infant-blindness or infertility so services such as CASH are essential to provide free, non-judgemental advice and screening as well as a safe and respectful place to receive treatment. Speaking to the Nurses at the clinic you can really tell how seriously they take each patient and their circumstances. But the thing that surprised me most is how pleased they were to see each and every patient. In other clinics if your walk in is full to bursting with people queuing out of the door, that’s not a good thing. At CASH it was a positive “Great, the more people we can deliver good health education to about safe sex and the more people we can successfully test and if needs be treat”.
This should be the attitude of all Nurses in all areas I now believe.
Having a full bay of patients means the maximum amount of people as possible are benefitting from your care and services and the bigger impact on the community you can have through your work as a nurse.
CASH services have definitely got the right idea and were a great example of a highly functional and cohesive multi-disciplinary team of HCAs, GPs and Nurses that I believe every student nurse could learn something from.
And you also get a goodie bag full of condoms!!