As a nurse, one of your overarching goals is to provide the highest quality care possible. This involves more than just medical care, but also the understanding, empathy, and patience needed to craft comprehensive care plans for those in need.
Nurses care for a wide variety of patients, including those from marginalized communities. Unfortunately, unfair stigmas surrounding these communities can be reflected in healthcare. This can result in disparities in treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ+) patients. Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in healthcare has been linked to an increase in psychiatric problems, substance abuse, and suicide.
However, nurses can become a source of healing to LGBTQ+ patients. According to a Gallup Poll, as of 2022, 7.1% of American adults self-identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a record high, which creates greater demand for high-quality healthcare providers, specifically for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
You can create a supportive and inclusive environment by following these tips for supporting LGBTQ+ patients.
Do the Necessary Research
Successful nurses understand the different communities they serve, and the variance of care required. Familiarize yourself with not only the specific health risks that affect LGBTQ+ patients but the best practices to promote the most comfortable experience possible. Members of the LGBTQ+ community may not have access to quality healthcare, creating an increased health risk. By having a better understanding of the communities you serve, you can improve the quality of care provided to those who are often at a disadvantage.
Intersectionality refers to the connections between various facets of someone’s identity, including gender identity, race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic class. If you’re already a nurse, you’re familiar with the wide range of intersections that make up a patient’s identity, as well as the effect that intersectionality can have on a patient’s experience. There are plenty of valuable resources available to familiarize yourself with intersectionality and how it can affect healthcare. Taking the time to educate yourself now will have a positive effect on the treatment of your patients.
Use Inclusive Language
Part of your research should involve educating yourself on LGBTQ+ terminology. When it comes to communicating with those under your care, words matter. Allow patients to tell you how they want to be addressed during treatment. When providing paperwork, leave space for patients to give a preferred name, gender identity, and if they’re comfortable – sexual orientation.
Seeking medical treatment can be an anxiety-inducing experience for patients and allowing them the space to share their preferences is a great way to put the patient at ease. Using gender-neutral language effortlessly creates an inclusive and non-judgmental environment.
A good attitude immediately sets the tone for a positive experience for both the nurse and the patient. For some LGBTQ+ patients, seeking medical care can be extremely nerve-wracking. You are being trusted with sensitive information, and part of being a healthcare provider is putting your patients at ease. Acknowledge the patient’s courage and provide the peace of mind they deserve to reassure them that they are in good hands. You are more than a nurse to your patients; you are an ally.
One of the most rewarding parts of a career in nursing is having the opportunity to directly enhance the lives of others. By taking the extra steps to ensure that you’re supporting LGBTQ+ patients, you’re strengthening the state of healthcare.