Because of their training, pharmacists are perfectly placed to offer advice on a variety of issues without the hassle of having to book an appointment. Due to the variety of these issues, it is also important that pharmacy staff know how to best approach and advise those who are seeking help.
Despite the prevalence of erectile dysfunction, research indicates that over 40% of men with erectile dysfunction may not seek help from a healthcare professional. The impact of erectile dysfunction on an individual and his partner can be considerable, as the ability to get and maintain an erection can be important to a man’s perception of his own wellbeing, and it can lead to men feeling anxious, depressed and lacking in self-confidence.
However, addressing the issue has shown to have a positive impact not only on a man’s general sexual health but his overall wellbeing too, as taking the first step to discuss symptoms with a pharmacist opens the door to a wider conversation.
A recent survey of men aged over 40 has shown that after seeking advice for erectile dysfunction, nearly three quarters took active steps to improve their health. This included being more aware of their heart health (37%), consuming less sugar (44%), exercising more (43%) and managing their cholesterol (41%).
We spoke with Kristie Sourial MRPharmS, Senior Medical manager at Pfizer Consumer Health, who provided tips for pharmacists on how to broach the sensitive topic of erectile dysfunction with patients who may initially be reluctant or shy to speak openly about the subject:
- Building a human connection: People skills play an important role here. At the end of the day, treating patients with respect, and understanding why they decided to come into the pharmacy that day is a crucial step in making that connection. Establishing that initial rapport and trust is a key first step.
- The consultation room: Feel free to suggest or offer the option of conducting a conversation in private, via the consultation room if there is one available, especially for those who are more reluctant to share their thoughts in a public area. This allows the patient to see that you are open to listening to their needs and will help to diminish feelings of embarrassment when it comes to openly discussing sensitive topics such as men’s health or erectile dysfunction. If the consultation room is not available in your pharmacy, you can still have a discreet conversation by taking the patient to a side area and be mindful of keeping the volume low so that the patient does not feel awkward of others listening.
- Talk about the condition from a medical standpoint: Do not criticise or assume anything about the patient – or their lifestyle. Broach their health matters from a professional point of view, focusing on asking the right questions to get to the medical or underlying causes of why they may be feeling the way they are feeling. It is important to ask for a medical history as certain illnesses cause symptoms of erectile dysfunction and may be the underlying reason why they are suffering. This includes but is not limited to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
- Empathise with the patient: Be professional and empathise with the patient as he discloses personal information and perhaps shocking confessions – never laugh and keep facial expressions neutral. Be mindful of the language in your conversation and use terms like ‘erectile problems’ rather than ‘erectile dysfunction’.
- Try to establish any factors that their social life or lifestyle plays: Life gets in the way – we all know that. Feel free to have a conversation with the patient to try and learn more about what they like to do in their free time if there have been any key stressors recently, and how their work and relationships are going.