Few of us enjoy going to the doctor or visiting the hospital. You’re ill and stressed with other things to do. Now, picture also worrying about if the employees, health professionals and even other patients will treat you kindly and fairly. Will they respect you? Will they listen to you? Will they mock you? For many LGBTQIA+ patients, that fear is real.
The AIDS crisis in the early 90s had many health workers, including nurses, refusing to touch those with AIDS. More recently, in 2015, a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that 80% of first-year medical students expressed some form of bias against the LGBTQIA+ community. How can we, as nurses and healthcare professionals, do better to offer validating and kind care?
#1. Know the Terminology
It’s crucial to stay updated on basic LGBTQIA+ terms. Being knowledgeable creates a closer bond with your patient, helps to identify potential mental and physical health risks and creates an inclusive and safe environment for them to open up and be honest. We all want to feel comfortable, and it can be difficult when fear of discrimination is present. To learn more about LGBTQIA+ terms, this glossary from National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center is a good place to start.
#2. Respect Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
Taking the time and effort to educate yourself and build an inclusive space is a start, but nurses must respect every patient’s gender identity and sexual orientation. This may mean putting aside one’s personal beliefs in the process. Attempt to use unassuming and gender-fluid language. Ask open-ended questions and maintain a judgment-free behavior.
This can all be a tricky subject to navigate, but remember, you’re treating a human being, first and foremost. It is your professional responsibility to ensure all are treated equally and fairly. The Code of Ethics for Nurses states, “The nurse practices with compassion and respect for every person’s inherent dignity, worth and unique attributes.” So, let’s take these tips and be the reason someone feels safe and welcomed while receiving care. Learn more at the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center or the American Medical Association.
Care and advocate for all of your patients with the skills you’ll hone through American College of Education’s fully online nursing programs.