You can't help patients with their sexual problems as well if you haven't had much sexual experience yourself. And medical students spend all their time studying medical texts.
MORE SEX EDUCATION
But more important than personal sex experience is receiving enough training in med school that will allow you to "address sexual concerns clinically."
A study just published in 'Academic Medicine' focuses on the factors associated with a student's comfort level in discussing sex in a clinical context.
From the University of California - San Francisco, the study was lead by Alan Shindel, now an assistant professor of urology at UC - Davis who told The Wall Street Journal Health Blog:
"There's a perception that doctors don't know how to address this issue and don't feel comfortable bringing it up."
SEX TALK MAKES DOCS UNCOMFORTABLE
I'd say that perception is right-on accurate. In fact, some patients report (to me) not bringing up sexual problems for fear of embarrassing their doctor. Patients protecting their physicians -- isn't that backwards?
Additionally Shindel says, a med student's own sexual experience or problems can affect how she or she handles the topic with patients, which makes physician sexual experience pertinent.
In this study, researchers surveyed 2,261 med students, finding that students with limited sexual experience and those at risk for some sexual problems were less comfortable talking with patients about sex. (You can read the study yourself to get the details of specific sex practices the med students reported.)
TRAINING MORE IMPORTANT THAN EXPERIENCE
More influential than a physician's personal sex life is his or her training. Even though 81 percent of med students questioned said they felt comfortable talking about sex with patients, more than 53 percent still said they did not get enough training to "address sexual concerns clinically."
Part of an International Society for Sexual Medicine group, Shindel is working to draft principles for a curriculum that could be used worldwide -- a more universal set of standards for teaching in med schools that would be multidisciplinary.
SEX IS MORE THAN PREGNANCY AND INFECTION
Right now America's medical schools teach the basics of reproduction and the illnesses and conditions that are sex-related -- as "a vector of infection and pregnancy" says Shindel.
What's missing is the idea of sex in and of itself.
SEX LIFE? WHAT SEX LIFE?
The study showed that med students' sex lives weren't as robust as that of the average American:
- 86% of men and 87% of women surveyed had been sexually active at least once, at an average age of 19. Nationally, the average age of first intercourse is 17.
- Sexually active women and men reported having sex five or six times a month, respectively. Data on average Americans, according to the Kinsey Institute, show Americans aged 18 to 29 report having sex about 10 times per month.
- Increasingly med students, both male and female, are experiencing sexual challenges, such as erectile dysfunction, lack of interest or pleasure more than the rest of the American population.
- 14% of male respondents suffered from erectile dysfunction, and 23 % rated their risk of premature ejaculation as "high." In comparison, erectile dysfunction afflicts only 5 percent of American men aged 20 to 40.
- For women it was even worse, with 49% reporting a high risk of female sexual dysfunction, and 73 percent of those in a sexual relationship complained that tiredness interfered with their desire for sex.
- More than half of the medical students who were surveyed reported an inadequate sex-education curriculum in the classroom. This lack of sex ed was the most important factor associated with discomfort in addressing sexuality with patients.
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by Sharon McEachern