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Burn care professionals' attitudes and practices regarding discussions of sexuality and intimacy with adult burn survivors.

  • Rimmer, Ruth Brubaker
  • Rutter, Cindy E
  • Lessard, Collette R
  • Pressman, Melissa Singer
  • Jost, Janet Cusick
  • Bosch, James
  • Foster, Kevin N
  • Caruso, Daniel M
Published Article
Journal of burn care & research : official publication of the American Burn Association
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2010
DOI: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3181e4d66a
PMID: 20523230


Burn injury survival means coping with more than just the physical changes and disabilities often encountered after burn injury. Overall quality of life is important, and issues such as sexuality and intimacy are significant facets of quality of life. A literature review revealed limited research regarding current burn center practices related to sexuality and intimacy concerns of burn survivors and their partners. A 28-item survey, designed by seasoned burn care professionals and survivors, was distributed to burn care practitioners attending general sessions at several burn conferences in the United States. Seventy-one (86%) of the invited respondents completed the survey, with nursing representing the majority (63%). Mean tenure working in burn care was 10 years. Mean age of respondents was 40.5 years, with 75% being female and 25% male. Nearly half (47%) reported that specific staff was not designated to discuss sexuality and intimacy with survivors in their center. Sixty-two percent reported that special training regarding sexuality and intimacy was not available at their burn center. Only 14% of respondents indicated that they were "very comfortable" initiating conversation regarding these topics. Fifty-five percent said they were only likely to discuss sexuality and intimacy if the patient/partner initiated the discussion; however, 95% agreed that the patient should not have this responsibility. Although results represent findings from only 37 burn centers, the issues of sexuality and intimacy are not being effectively addressed in the participating centers. Designated staff to provide education is lacking, and there is limited comfort on the part of health care providers in initiating such conversations. These factors seem to often prevent burn care professionals from adequately addressing burn survivor's sexuality and intimacy needs and establish the need for further development of training and educational materials specific to sexuality, intimacy, and burn injury survival. The limited number and lack of diversity among participants create potential for bias and limit generalizability of results.

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