Assisting patients with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is a very delicate and tedious job. Medical Assistants must be educated on the different types of STIs, and knowledgeable on how to address the patient, in order to gain trust and a good relationship with the patient. By having this knowledge you, the Medical Assistant, will have a much smoother and productive visit with the patient, meanwhile, this usually tends to make the patient feel more at ease, which in turn helps the patient to be honest, now that you’ve gained trust, and will answer your questions more openly. The following essay will give a better understanding of how to build this trust and how to respond to a patient with an STI.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are relatively common in young people, however, they will affect anyone of any age the same, if a person is not safe and careful when engaging in sexual activity or even substance abuse. In order to properly educate a patient about STIs, a medical assistant should be very well educated and know all the types of STIs, as well as how to prevent them. Being that, usually the Medical assistant is the first face the patient encounter in the exam room, the MA should introduce themselves with a welcoming smile, as well as verify the patient’s name and date of birth in order to be sure the chart coincides with the patient. MA’s should always remember to be non-judgemental and ask the appropriate questions without risk of offending the patient. Beginning with simple, open ended questions will comfort the patient and help the MA build trust with the patient. Most importantly, make very clear to the patient that anything spoken at that moment is confidential and that he is in a safe place, where all that you want is to treat and find the best solution to help symptoms and in most cases cure him. Many times patients with STI symptoms and signs are not likely to open up verbally and honestly answer questions. Some they may not want to speak to the MA at all. This is when your verbal communication skills come in quite handy. Be honest with the patient, as well as empathetic to his situation.
Eye contact is key because the patient will feel heard and be more apt to engage in this difficult conversation. MA’s need to record the patient’s general history as well as social history in order for the physician to accurately diagnose the patient. When asking questions, an MA needs to be very careful in choosing words and how to address this subject without using offensive terms, but also be able to clearly inform the patient what is the next step. The patient should be completely informed on his specific STI, and also how to prevent this from reoccurring or controlled properly, this depends on the STI the patient has.
The MA should give the patient some educational material on STIs since in some cases patients will feel more at ease if they have this information and have a better understanding of how they contracted the STI and what should be done in order to treat him and prevent this from happening again. It is crucial that the patient completely understands what you saying and why you need to ask certain questions, that he may not feel comfortable answering. If you explain that you are asking these difficult questions because it will help you better understand his medical issue as well as facilitate the Physician to diagnose the issue accurately and help the treatment process, so that he can receive the proper treatment to ensure that the patient feels better and possibly is cured. Not all STIs are curable but they are all manageable and may be controlled by medication. For example, HIV may not be curable, but yet is controlled with medication. This is why getting checked regularly for any STIs or STDs is so important. You, the medical assistant, need to speak clearly to the patient about his options on how to practice safe intimate encounters as well as make the patient aware that by law it is required to advise the health department of certain STIs such as: Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Chlamydia, all which are curable. Also, the patient should be aware that telling past, present and future partners of this issue is the ethical and moral thing to do. There are a few reasons why this needs to be done, first because no one wants to contract anything nor spread an infection like this.
Secondly, I believe someone can legally sue you for hurting them medically. Lastly, you should want to know where the infection came from, so that you can help another before they spread the STI to more people and they can receive treatment as well. STIs are preventable if you educate yourself or seek help from your MA or physician before engaging in sexual activity. Using protection such as condoms, with spermicide is vital, especially if they have or have had multiple partners in a month. Abstinence is the safest way to stay healthy, however, if you are sexually active, monogamy is essentially the best way to prevent any infections.
In conclusion, STIs are not something to take lightly, so as the patient listen and comprehend everything on the subject when any clinical staff addresses it. Routine checks are important to your health, as well as being sure any partner you have has been checked as well. The MA will also discuss the harm in substance abuse and how these infections may be spread that way as well, since needles are involved at times, which is a huge risk. The MA will advise you that certain STIs need to be reported in order to not further spread or harm anyone else, including yourself.
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