More Effective Way to Ask a Delicate Question

December 8, 2009

When taking a patient’s sexual history, I find that the question “How many partners do you have?” rarely elicits a complete picture. Instead, I ask, “How many partners have you had in the past 6 months?” This usually reveals when patients have engaged in serial monogamy and creates an environment in which they feel they can disclose one-night stands and sexual activity outside their marriage. The stage is then set for delivering appropriate safe sex messages and screening for sexually transmitted infections.

When taking a patient’s sexual history, I find that the question “How many partners do you have?” rarely elicits a complete picture. Instead, I ask, “How many partners have you had in the past 6 months?” This usually reveals when patients have engaged in serial monogamy and creates an environment in which they feel they can disclose one-night stands and sexual activity outside their marriage. The stage is then set for delivering appropriate safe sex messages and screening for sexually transmitted infections.
-- Sayaka Ogata, NP-BC
         New Haven, Conn

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