Let’s Talk About Sex: An Interview with Jenny Redpath, RN
There are all kinds of reasons why we may go to sexual health clinic. From STI screening, to accessing birth control, to reproductive counselling and more, sexual health clinics have been trailblazers in creating accessible essential services. Options for Sexual Health (Options) is a social profit society that serves British Columbia and the Yukon through their clinics, delivering fact-based education, and distributing information. Options clinics provide reproductive and sexual care from an intersectional, sex-positive, feminist, and pro-choice perspective.
Tell me a little bit about what you do!
First off, I love my job! I have the privilege of working with people who want to take care of their sexual health! We offer contraception education and dispensing (people can receive birth control in our clinic), prevention and testing of sexually transmitted infections(STIs) and an opportunity to discuss questions and concerns about sex.
What types of issues do patients come to the Options for Sexual Health (Options) clinic about?
It is a range; historically contraception was our main focus, but over the past number of years I think we have seen a significant increase in patients coming in to access STI testing and treatment, as well as education.
What kinds of barriers do patients encounter when trying to access sexual health services?
Not having a GP or Nurse Practitioner (NP) has a huge disadvantage for sexual health. Most specialist require a GP or NP referral and often people are discouraged to use the hospital as a place to access less acute health care, such as STI testing. Our clinic has certified practice nurses who are able to provide specific care for contraception and STI testing/treatment – we are available for everyone over the age of 12 and folks do not require a GP or NP to access our services.
Has the advent of COVID impacted services?
COVID certainly changed our practice! We have had to modify our waiting area, as well as increase screening methods when booking appointments and for the day of appointments. We have been incredibly fortunate to have the support of our Provincial Office to offer telephone consults with a GPs based elsewhere in the province to ensure we are meeting folks’ needs. We have also developed a waitlist for in person services, and we are absolutely doing our best to meet urgent needs!
How do you balance getting patient’s medical needs taken care of while maintaining a trauma informed approach?
This is an incredibly important question. OPT honours a trauma informed lens, including using pronouns as dictated by the client, asking about preferences for genital names, and also referring clients to appropriate resources when they are interested. Trauma Informed Practice to me, means not making assumptions about someone’s experience, using language that is either agreed upon by the client, or that puts the person first – it also means being open to feedback and being flexible to modify language or services so that it works for the individual accessing care.
Do you think that masturbation has a place in discussions around sexual wellness?
One topic that we miss often, when discussing sexual health, is pleasure. It is one of the reasons we are sexually active! In fact, my hope is that all of the sexual activity that occurs is consensual and pleasurable! So I guess the short answer is yes, I think we need to talk about pleasure in its many forms including self-pleasure or masturbation.
What is something that you wish was taught in sex-ed but isn’t?
SEE ABOVE!! And maybe some education on pornography! Pornography is so readily available on the internet, it would be amazing if youth were provided with some information on what it is and what it isn’t, so that when they inevitably come across it they already have a level of porn literacy to allow them to be informed about what it is they are seeing.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
So honoured to be invited into this conversation! If anyone has any questions I’d be happy to try and respond, or folks can check out Sex Sense, Options for Sexual Health’s toll-free resource and information service, at 1-800-739-7367 or by email at SexSense.org, or call our clinic at 250-537-8786.
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