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Nurse practitioners (NPs) understand that each patient population offers unique challenges. This is true for those NPs serving rural communities like Diane McGinnis, DNP, APRN, FNP-C,
in Alaska and Micki Lyons, CEO, DNP-C, in Wyoming; those treating patients with hospice and palliative care needs like Elena Prendergast, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, ACHPN; and many more. All these specialties require different skill sets and approaches.
At times, the needs of some patients may be more obvious than not. For example, an isolated rural community will not have the same access to health care providers, treatment options or supplies as an interconnected urban area. Another kind of challenge, however, is presented in populations that hide in plain sight. In particular: how can NPs reach a group that makes up half the population in the U.S. — but one that, according to recent studies, is hesitant to be seen at all? A survey from Cleveland Clinic found that 55% of men in the U.S. do not get regular health screenings, and that men of color in particular were even less likely to do so than their white counterparts. What can NPs do to bridge this gap in care?
Noting that male patients are less likely to regularly visit a health care provider, Ryan Holley-Mallo, PhD, DNP, NP-C, FAANP, writes in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners that “[t]he good news is, research supports the argument that men are not disinterested in their health, but rather the forum in which health care is delivered.” In particular, he urges NPs to “re-think the office visit,” and to note that many men “appreciate a franker approach and care that is delivered in a competent manner.”
Holley-Mallo also suggests that NPs “offer appointments before and after regular work hours,” and points out that men patients tend to “appreciate (the) thoughtful use of humor within their care, e.g., prior to a prostate or genital exam.” Obviously, utilizing directness and employing laughter is not a catch-all for making every male patient more comfortable seeing their NP regularly, and some men have health questions that they can’t imagine bringing up at all, let alone humorously. How can an NP reach and connect with these kinds of patients?
Men can be reticent when it comes to speaking up about issues related to health, and when the subjects turn even more intimate — concerning erectile dysfunction, testosterone or concerns about aging — the more uncomfortable the conversation for these patients may feel. It can be extremely helpful, then, for men to hear these topics discussed by health professionals in a way that is palatable, interesting and relatable to the average male.
The latest episode of NP Pulse: The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner® is entirely devoted to the topic of men’s health and features a conversation with host Sohpia Thomas DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP, and guests Stephen Ferrara, DNP, FNP, BC, FAANP, FAAN, and Nick Cannone, FNP. When asked about the statistics showing that many men are not routinely visiting their health provider, Cannone noted that, “I think that men in general are not good with their overall health care. I think that’s been evident for many years. One of the most difficult things about men and health is that we are drive by outcomes and how we feel […] We’re less likely to go to doctors when we’re feeling well.”
To inspire male patients to get regular checkups and find potential issues sooner rather than later, Cannone refers to the professional advice Holley-Mallo also recommends. Cannone says that at his practice, “we have late office hours once a week, which we offer for our patients who can’t get off from work — or don’t have time to take off from work — so they can get into the practice and get seen.”
Thomas, Ferrara and Cannone also discuss how much work needs to be done in the realm of men’s health from an NP’s perspective. “We have women's health certifications, and we don't have that for men,” says Thomas, “but I as an NP appreciate you [Cannone] dedicating your role to the treatment of men's health, erectile dysfunction, testosterone and all those things that men need.” This speaks to the necessity of even more scholarship and work NPs will dedicate to the subject of men’s health in the coming years.
In the meantime, as Cannone suggests, it really does come down to building and maintaining a relationship with the men who come in to see their NPs. “If we can create relationships with men, especially at a younger age, and we can maintain those relationships, they're more apt to come for follow-ups and everything else,” he says.
If you’re interested in hearing more from NPs about how they relate to specific patient populations, NP Pulse has a number of timely, thought-provoking podcasts related to topics like women’s health, which features a discussion on menopause and more.