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Villanova Nursing DNP Student, Dr. Rebecca Sherlock, Empowers Nurses to Provide Sexual Health Education to Patients with Spina Bifida

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Rebecca L. Sherlock, DNP, RN, PPCNP-BC, a recent Pitek Scholar in the Post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, has embarked on a groundbreaking project aimed at enhancing sexual health education for patients between the ages of 11 and 15 with Spina Bifida. With a focus on improving nurses' communication skills and attitudes, Dr. Sherlock's innovative program strives to ensure equitable access to healthcare and comprehensive sexual health education for this vulnerable population.

Spina Bifida, a congenital condition affecting the spinal cord and its surrounding structures, poses unique challenges for patients in various aspects of their lives, including sexual health. Dr. Sherlock recognized the urgent need to address the knowledge gap among nurses and healthcare practitioners in terms of providing appropriate sexual health education to patients with Spina Bifida.

Through her DNP scholarly project, An Educational Program for Nurses to Provide Sexual Health Information to Spina Bifida Patients Ages 11-15 Years, Dr. Sherlock developed a comprehensive curriculum that empowers nurses and advanced practice nurses (APNs) with the necessary skills to communicate effectively and supportively with their patients.

One of the project's highlights is the implementation of an education program specifically for registered nurses (RNs) and APNs. This program aligns with the National Sex Education Standards and aims to equip nurses with the knowledge and tools to provide comprehensive sexual health education tailored to the needs of patients with Spina Bifida.

To assess the effectiveness of the program, Dr. Sherlock has incorporated pre- and post-educational surveys to measure the communication skills and attitudes of participants to address their biases and vulnerabilities about sexuality in populations with disabilities.

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Dr. Rebecca L. Sherlock, DNP, RN, PPCNP-BC

Furthermore, Dr. Sherlock developed a self-directed, asynchronous NetLearning educational module "Sexual Health and Wellness for Spina Bifida Patients." This module allows nurses to access valuable resources and educational materials at their own pace, ensuring they are well-prepared to address the specific needs of their patients.

Rebecca Sherlock's passion for health advocacy and public policy serves as the driving force behind this pioneering project. By starting conversations and addressing uncomfortable topics, she aims to foster fearless dialogue and promote positive change within the healthcare community.

Reflecting on her experience as a Villanova DNP student, Dr. Sherlock praises the College's support and the strength of its online learning platform. As an adult learner with a full-time job, she found the flexibility of online classes to be instrumental in her academic journey. The virtual environment allowed her to connect with classmates and professors, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared learning experiences.

Dr. Sherlock's commitment to making a difference in the lives of patients with Spina Bifida extends beyond her academic pursuits. She recently presented her findings and insights to parents at the Spina Bifida Association's Teen Empowerment Weekend, where she received overwhelming support and praise. One mother in attendance shared her feedback, stating, "Rebecca's presentation was clear, frank, compassionate, and, above all, empowering. She has tackled an issue that is too easily ignored."

With her project, Dr. Sherlock is not only empowering nurses to provide comprehensive sexual health education to patients with Spina Bifida but also advocating for the inclusion and equitable care of individuals with disabilities. Her dedication to advancing sexual health equity and promoting open, knowledgeable conversations will undoubtedly make a significant impact on the lives of adolescents with Spina Bifida.

As a Pitek Scholar, Dr. Sherlock exemplifies Villanova Nursing's commitment to fostering innovation, nursing leadership and positive change in healthcare.

For more information on Villanova Nursing's Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program for Advanced Practice Nurses, Nurse Executives and Nurse Educators CLICK HERE