Sexual Health Adviser

The Job and What's Involved

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 partner.
  • 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.

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.

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

Getting Started with this Career Choice

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.

Education and Training

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 guides 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.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

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.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A sexual health adviser needs:

  • 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.

Your Long Term Prospects

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.

Get Further Information

Society of Sexual Health Advisors,
Website: www.ssha.info

NHS Careers, PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

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