Since 1969, we have designated June as Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots and pursue equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community. However, the LGBTQIA+ community faces ongoing discrimination and stigma in our society, even in healthcare. The American Nurses Association (ANA) “condemns discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or expression in health care and recognizes that it continues to be an issue despite the increasing recognition and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ populations.” It’s an important month to remind healthcare providers of the health disparities in the LGBTQIA+ community and educate ourselves on ways to be better advocates.
Health Care Challenges
Everyone who needs medical care should receive it without being mistreated, discriminated against, or denied access. Yet, researchers have found inequality in health care, which endangers and affects the mental health of the LGBTQIA+ community. This impact can discourage people from seeking health care. The ANA is continuously spreading systemic awareness and creating a safe and inclusive health care environment for everyone. As a healthcare professional, there are ways to advocate for this marginalized community on an individual level.
Educate + Advocacy
It is crucial to stay up-to-date on basic LGBTQIA+ terms, language, and definitions as a health care professional. Staying knowledgeable creates a closer bond with your patient, identifies potential mental and physical health risks, and creates a generally more inclusive and safe environment.
Take advantage of the many resources and hotlines to further your knowledge:
- Trevor Project: leading organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25
- American Medical Association: Creating an LGBTQ-Friendly Practice
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: LGBT Health Services
- Nurses Health Education About LGBT Elders
- The World Professional Association for Transgender Health: Standards of Care
- National LGBT Health Education Center
Create an inclusive space
We all want to feel comfortable, and it is difficult when the space is unknown or uninviting. And years and years of discrimination doesn’t help either. Create a safe place in the hospital, whether that be in the waiting room or medical facility such as:
- Unisex restrooms
- LGBTQIA+ flags or other symbols that represent inclusiveness
- Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies
- Preferred contacts and support systems (LGBTQ+ community more likely to create a chosen family)
- Establish pronouns prior. Always include your pronouns as well.
Putting in the time to educate oneself and creating an inclusive space isn’t enough. Ultimately, a nurse must respect every one of their patient’s gender identity and sexual orientation. This means settings aside one’s personal and religious beliefs in the process. The best strategy is to be unassuming and gender fluid in language, ask open-ended questions and maintain a non-judgmental behavior. Therefore, creating an enjoyable and safe experience for LGBTQIA+ patients, so they can continue seeking medical attention. Share your pronouns on your name tag or in your introduction to open up a safe and welcoming space.
All in all, this is an important topic that takes time, patience, and continuous knowledge to stay informed. As nurses, it’s your professional responsibility to ensure all patients are provided with medical care. As the Code of Ethics For Nurses states, “the nurse practices with compassion and respect for every person’s inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes.
Any advice we’re missing? Let us know!