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Monday, 20 January 2014

Career Profile - Sexual Health Adviser

Written by The Editorial Team

If you have knowledge of sexual health issues and want to use your communication skills to help people maintain good sexual health, this job could be for you.

Sexual health advisers provide information, advice and counselling to patients diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They play a key role in helping the patient understand and manage their condition.

In this job you will need a non-judgemental approach. Your ability to network with a range of public, private and voluntary organisations will also be important.

You will usually need experience in nursing, health visiting, social work or counselling. Some employers may accept you with a degree in a subject such as sociology, health science, public health, health promotion or psychology, if you also have relevant experience in a health care setting.


The work

Sexual health advisers provide information, advice and counselling to patients diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They play a key role in helping the patient understand and manage their condition.

As a sexual health adviser, you would work with individuals and groups affected by sexual health issues in general and STIs (including HIV) in particular. An important part of your work would be to offer advice to help prevent and minimise the risks of infection.

Your exact duties could vary greatly between clinics, but you would typically be involved with:

  • advising patients on precautions to take with current partners
  • tracing and contacting previous partners who may have been exposed to the STI
  • promoting good sexual health practices
  • counselling patients
  • teaching and training
  • carrying out research
  • compiling local statistics
  • keeping up to date with the latest health research and policies.

You could also be involved in the national screening programme for chlamydia infection.


Hours

In a full-time job in the NHS, you would generally work 37.5 hours a week. Part-time posts are often available.

You would normally be based in a genito-urinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic, although there may be some outreach work involved.


Income

Sexual health adviser can earn between around £25,000 and £33,500 a year.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.


Entry requirements

You will usually need experience in nursing, health visiting, social work or counselling. Some employers may accept you with a degree in a subject such as sociology, health science, public health, health promotion or psychology, if you also have relevant experience in a health care setting.

Many people become interested in this work (and gain relevant experience) by choosing study options and arranging work placements related to sexual health whilst training, for example to become a nurse or social worker. Check the related profiles for details of routes into these and other health-related careers.

Whatever your background, you will often need:

  • experience in a health care environment
  • recognised counselling training, skills and practice
  • knowledge of STIs, HIV and related sexual health issues
  • competence in health education and promotion.

You may also need (or at least benefit from) qualifications in subjects such as health promotion (for example, the RSPH Level 2 Award in Health Promotion); teaching, assessing and mentoring; sexual health care (like the STI Foundation course run by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH)).

If you are a qualified nurse, you may be able to prepare for this work by taking the sexual health advising options within a Specialist Community Public Health Nursing Programme.


Training and development

Any in-service training you might need will vary depending on your professional background and experience.

As a qualified nurse working in sexual health advice, you may be able to take postgraduate training at a university, possibly through the Specialist Community Public Health Nursing Programme.

Several local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) offer relevant courses in sexual health issues, treatments and counselling skills through their sexual health training teams. The BASHH website and Society of Sexual Health Advisers have further information and advice on training courses, conferences and networking opportunities.


Skills, interests and qualities

To be a sexual health adviser you should have:

  • an in-depth understanding of sexual health issues
  • good spoken and written communication skills
  • a non-judgemental approach to care
  • good organisational and time management skills
  • the ability to network with a range of organisations (public, private and voluntary)
  • project management skills
  • good research and analytical skills
  • self-motivation
  • tact and empathy
  • respect for confidentiality.

More information

Society of Sexual Health Advisors (Opens new window)
www.ssha.info

NHS Careers (Opens new window)
PO Box 2311
Bristol
BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150850


Opportunities

Jobs may be advertised in the press, health service journals, directly through NHS Trusts (see the NHS Choices website for a list of trusts) and on the NHS Jobs website.

With experience, you could progress to senior sexual health adviser. There may also be opportunities to move into a sexual health lead role for a community Primary Care Trust, implementing the National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV at a local level.

Job profiles are based on the latest information supplied to us by industry bodies, such as Sector Skills Councils. Please be aware that with the introduction of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (Opens in a new window) there has been, and will continue to be, changes to vocational qualifications. For more information, please check with industry bodies directly.


Related industry information

Industry summary

The health sector is represented by Skills for Health Sector Skills Council, which comprises three sub‐sectors:

  • National Health Service (NHS)
  • Independent Healthcare Sector (such as private and charitable healthcare providers)
  • Third Sector (healthcare) (such as small local community and voluntary groups, registered charities, foundations, trusts, social enterprises and co‐operatives)

The health sector is made up of hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, dental practices, the ambulance service, nursing homes, residential care homes, complementary medicine and a huge range of other health related activities, from sight tests in opticians to research in medical laboratories. Most people in the health sector work in the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS), which includes:

  • primary care (organisations which the public goes to first) – Doctors/General Practitioners (GPs), NHS Walk in Centres, NHS Direct, Out of Hours Emergency Care
  • secondary care (organisations which the public are referred onto) – Ambulance Trusts, NHS Trusts/hospitals, NHS Foundation Trusts/hospitals, Mental Health Trusts, Care Trusts (provide joint health and social care activities)

NHS policy in England is directed from the centre by the Department of Health. Local organisations, known as Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), are in charge of providing and commissioning services, controlling the majority of the budget. PCTs are overseen by 10 regional organisations called Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).

The independent sector includes companies and charities that offer hospital and specialist services usually after referral from a doctor. Operations and other work are carried out in private hospitals, independent treatment centres, mental health units and hospices.

Key facts:

  • The health sector is the largest employer in the UK, representing 5.5% of the working age population of the UK and 7.3% of the working age population that are currently in employment.
  • It is estimated that the sector employs over 2 million people, including:
    • over 1.5 million people in the NHS (72%)
    • over 0.5 million people in the Independent Healthcare sector (26%)
    • almost 40,000 in the voluntary sector (2%)
  • 56% of the workforce has a higher education qualification (or equivalent).
  • The age profile for the sector shows an older than average workforce, which is due in part to the fact that it takes some professions a long time to train and can mean that people enter the sector later.

There is a varied list of jobs in the sector ranging from a diverse number of clinical roles, to support and infrastructure staff, for instance: Allied Health Professionals (AHPs); Ambulance Staff; Dental Staff; Doctors/Medical staff; Nursing staff; Midwifery Staff; Healthcare Scientists; Health Informatics Staff; Management; Wider Healthcare Team; Complementary Therapists.


Further sources

NHS Careers has sections on:

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