Easy question - number of sexual partners is this objective or subjective?


I try to keep my titles useful so they can be helpful to anyone else who might come up with the same question. I thought number of sexual partners would be subjective because it is something the patient would tell you, but looking through posts on AN I am seeing a few posts that say this is objective data. Now, I am not sure where to list this on my care plan - under objective or subjective?

Double-Helix, BSN, RN

1 Article; 3,377 Posts

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU. Has 12 years experience.

It's subjective. The patient verbally tells you the answer and you can't find out the answer without the patient telling you.

Objective data can be observed by multiple healthcare providers at separate points in time. Examples: vital signs, respiratory effort, steadiness of walking. You can't observe the number of sexual partners (well, you know what I mean). You have to get that information from the patient directly, so it is subjective data.

nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

subjective is a matter of opinion, because it is subject to the reporter's interpretation (e.g., "i am cold, nobody likes me, and my cat is ugly") ; objective data are matters of fact. (e.g., "i got lost in the snow, my spouse is divorcing me, and i have a cat.")

i can see that under some circumstances whether or not someone had, in fact, had had sex with another person might be a matter of opinion. however, it's a data point, so it's objective even if the patient is the one providing the data.

other objective data the patient might relate include the number of children s/he has, where s/he lives (apartment, house, under a bridge), and military/educational history. these are not matters of opinion.

ok, so whether one has been educated or not may be a matter of opinion, but having attended the school is a matter of fact.

so even if he says, "i have had so many partners i can't count them," that's still objective. (infinity can still be a data point.)

Specializes in Med/Surg,Cardiac. Has 1 years experience.

I'd say it is subjective data... Primarily since I'm sure different people may have different ideas as to what they did with another person that makes them a sexual partner. Also, many people don't realize that this can be an important question and may not include those who they didn't have sexual intercourse with....

Oh, the ways different questions can be interpreted.

Again, considering this subjective may translate into calling your patient a liar. Haha.


675 Posts

Has 2 years experience.

Guessing this one was not such an easy question as I've gotten a pretty good split on answers. I may just ask for help from the instructor on this one.


18 Posts

The way I have been told is if the patient says, its subjective; you observe, objective.

Subjective and Objective in the realm of care plans and nursing isn't based soley on literary meaning or context of the abstract thought. Sure, if you physically see the perso have intercourse with multiple women, this would be Objective (as you Observed the information). If you are asking the PT the question, and they give you a number, this is subjective (since the patient is Saying).

Take it in refernce to pain scales, they will always be subjective since you have no way of "knowing" if the PT is in pain or not. Same thing with sexual partners.

Objective would be something like characteristics of their breathing pattern, or skin assessments.

My final answer will be subjective...

allnurses Guide


3 Articles; 5,581 Posts

Specializes in Adult Internal Medicine. Has 12 years experience.

If you didn't measure it or assess it directly, it's subjective ;)


352 Posts

I would say it's objective. It's like GrnTea said, if you ask someone how many children they have, and they say 'three', well, I consider that objective data. They might be lying, maybe they really have six children, I'll never know for sure, but I don't see how you could say the number of children a patient reports they have is subjective. I figure this is the same.

Perhaps it's true that a person may be more inclined to lie about the number of sexual partners they've had, but I still think it would be considered objective. In my mind, subjective would be the nurse's interpretation of the answer so writing down 'patient is (not) promiscuous' would be subjective.


172 Posts

Guessing this one was not such an easy question as I've gotten a pretty good split on answers. I may just ask for help from the instructor on this one.

Good thinking. I've had many instructors disagree on careplans and how to do them. The trick is learning what your instructor wants and doing it even if it is wrong to every other instructor in the nation.

Specializes in Labor and Delivery. Has 3 years experience.

It's subjective unless you're having the sex with her lol

nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

" the way i have been told is if the patient says, its subjective; you observe, objective."

i hoped to explain why this facile description is inadequate, and inaccurate to boot.

facts are not subjective. if the patient says, "i have a rash," that is not subjective (if he has the rash :D ). it's objective. if he tells you his name, his dwelling, his family structure, the medications he's taking, when he was in the hospital over the last two years, you may not observe any of that, but it is still data, objective, not subject to change by the way he feels or is feeling about it.

"i am short of breath" is subjective; it is subject to the way the patient feels. he might have a resp rate of 16 and not feel short of breath, or he could have a resp rate of 10 and feel very short of breath. his feelings color his description; these are subjective.

"i am always scared of needles when i am in the hospital." that's definitely subjective, because some of the things that upset one person may not bother another one at all.

"i am always constipated; i do not have a bm every day, just every other day." this is mixed: the fact that he doesn't have a bm every day is something that can be observed and counted; that's objective data. but the fact that he thinks this means he's constipated (it doesn't-- it's normal to have a few bms in a week and not meet the definition of constipation) is subjective, because it's his interpretation of the facts.

i hope this works...

Specializes in Neuroscience/Brain and Stroke.

I agree with GrnTea, if there is a way to measure it, whether you have measured it or not, it's objective. If you lined up all of her sexual partners you could then count them, you wouldn't and there could always be a chance they are lying but that is just the way it is. In my opinion of course :thankya: