Touching a patient or client is an integral component of nursing care . Male nursing students report that educators poorly address their circumstances, according to professors of nursing Chad O'Lynn and Lorretta Krautscheid. Men view intimate touching as dangerous regardless of context; they are afraid intimate touch will be perceived as sexual.
O'Lynn and Krautscheid are currently conducting a study, "Teaching Men Nursing Students Intimate Touch Strategies," related to addressing the specific needs of male nursing students.
"When I went to nursing school 20 years ago, I was really nervous about touching people's private parts," O'Lynn said. "No one talked about it."
The research study is aimed to determine how to develop a class, according to Krautscheid.
"Nobody in the U.S. is providing information about the subject, so if we were to create a class, we'll need to determine what'll be in it and how it will be taught," Krautscheid said.
Many male nursesare forced to figure out how to properly handle genitalia and other intimate body parts on their own throughout their nursing careers. This often leads to fast or rough treatment with a "get it over with" mentality. The research aims to prove that addressing the issue and providing information to male students is more beneficial than the traditional method of trial and error.
"Fast is not always the best way. Many male students are nervous about asking delicate questions, like 'how should I touch a vagina,' when female classmates are in the room," O'Lynn said. "If only males are present in a class, all the questions, concerns and fears come out, and we talk about them."
An intervention group of an all-male nursing class was held during the summer, which 15 students attended.
Junior male nursing students who volunteered filled out a questionnaire and received information about the politics, posture, techniques and communication regarding touch strategies.
After three months of clinical experience, the intervention group will be compared to a control group of senior male nursing students. Both groups will be videotaped and answer a post-clinical questionnaire wherein a faculty panel will evaluate the findings.
Junior Matt Bryant attended the one-time session.
"At first it was a bit awkward even though it was important information," Bryant said. "The subject of intimate touching is kind of taboo. I'm glad that I was introduced to (the lab). Now that the awkward stage is out of the way, I feel more comfortable."
Bryant learned the importance of giving clients autonomy or the freedom to refuse the services of a nurse, including hygiene cleaning, catheter insertions, and exams.
The position of the nurse relative to the patient plays an important role in strategies. Nurses do not want to be "gazing at" or hunched over the patients.
"If the opportunity is available for upcoming junior students, I think they should take advantage of this class," Bryant said.
Justine Hone, junior, was also at the three hour lab with Bryant.
"I'm glad I had it," Hone said. "I have less anxiety in real life situations. Now I have an idea about what should be done correctly."
Hone feels that if the touch course is approved as a lab or class, it should be a required even for female nursing students.
"Making a point to keep the patient comfortable helps diffuse anxiety," Hone said.
The sex differences in nursing are not completely equal, according to O'Lynn.
"I feel females have a better sense of where and how their hands should move," O'Lynn said. "With pap smears, pelvic exams and such, women are more savvy with touch."
Fifty-four out of 591 undergraduate nursing students at UP are male. This demographic will be the first to receive specific procedures and strategies regarding intimate touch. Some male student nurses, however, feel that nurses as individuals play a bigger part than a nurse's gender.
"This is a touchy subject, no pun intended," said senior Bailey Saleumvong, president of the university's student nurses association. "To me, it's not that big of a deal. I found that if you are matter of fact about procedures, it doesn't cause anxiety."
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