Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Undergraduate sexual health education has the potential to increase confidence and the likelihood that healthcare professionals address sexual health in practice. This study explored Australian final year occupational therapy students’ perceptions about their education, and their preparedness and comfort to address sexuality in their final practice placements and into their future careers. An online questionnaire with three sections for (a) demographics; (b) the students' attitudes towards sexual health (SA-SH) questionnaire, which is a 22-item Likert scale about student attitudes toward sexual health issues in their future profession; and (c) nine open questions regarding students’ comfort and preparedness to address sexuality was used. The SA-SH scores of the 51 participants indicated 18 felt comfortable and well prepared; 30 felt comfortable and prepared in some situations and three participants felt uncomfortable and unprepared. Qualitative responses revealed: students considered sexuality was an important occupation; curriculum content meant they were most prepared to address sexuality with older people; personal values, gender, age, and culture factors influenced their preparedness; and comfort would increase with knowledge and experience. This paper demonstrates that both preparedness and comfort are required for occupational therapists to address sexuality effectively. The occupational therapy curriculum needs to focus on developing problem solving and practical skills using sexuality specific content, in particular how to initiate and respond when clients raise the topic. In conjunction with improvements to the curriculum, professional practice supervisors were identified as important educators as they can provide opportunities to address sexuality with clients and share their experiences while students are on placement.


Claire Lynch, DClinSc, BOccThy (Hons), GCHE is an occupational therapists who is currently a Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne. Her research interests include exploring sexuality from an occupational perspective.

Annette V. Joosten, PhD; M Dis Studies; B of App Sc (OT) is an occupational therapist who is currently an Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy, in a teaching and research role, at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests focus on creating evidence for practice and outcome measurement.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.