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June 12, 2023

Insights from a Nurse on Inclusive Healthcare for LGBTQIA+ Patients

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Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

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Imagine a healthcare system where every individual feels seen, heard, and understood, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To provide inclusive healthcare, nurses and nurse learners have their own responsibility to use their communication skills to break down barriers. 

To help nurses navigate this vital path, we had the privilege of conversing with Suzanne, BSN RN, a nurse who has spent the last three years of her eight-year nursing career devoted to supporting LGBTQIA+ adolescents. 

Join us as we share Suzanne's invaluable experience, hopefully equipping you with the tools to provide compassionate and affirming care to this unique population.

Interview with Nurse Suzanne

What are 3 ways nurses can be inclusive of LGBTQIA+ patients?

“There are many ways. Here are some: 

  1. Use Inclusive Medical Forms: Make sure the forms that you use have more options than male/female. We have male, female, non-binary, and other where people can write in their preferred gender or just add their pronouns.
  2. Ask About Preferred Names: Nurses get nervous calling people from the waiting room, unsure of what name the patient uses. Just use the name on the sheet, but ask if they have a preferred name. 
  3. Share Your Pronouns First: “I introduce myself with my pronouns and ask for theirs.”

What should nurses keep in mind when working with LGBTQIA+ patients?

“I think the one big thing to keep in mind is that if you make a mistake using the wrong pronouns or the wrong name, just apologize and move on. The more attention you draw to it, the worse it is for the person. If you accidentally use their dead name and you keep apologizing, you keep bringing more attention to it. It just makes them feel worse. So just say, ‘I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. I meant this, and keep going.’ ”

“Also, you can’t assume what parts a patient has, so it’s essential to ask those questions in a respectful way. For example, instead of saying, ‘Do you get your period?’ I say, ‘Do you bleed every month?’ Not everyone identifies as having their period, so it’s important to use inclusive language.”

Are there any assumptions that you may have to work through?

“It’s important not to make assumptions about what gender means to individuals. Specifically, non-binary patients. The identification can mean different things to different people. So, I just ask them, ‘What does being non-binary mean to you?’ “

How can you create a safe space for this population?

“Definitely introduce yourself with name and pronouns because they may be more inclined to use their preferred name and tell you their pronouns. But just sitting there, nonjudgmentally, and listening is one of the biggest ways. Also, if you ask a question and sometimes you might not ask it the right way that they understand it. So give some silence. And if you're still not getting the response that you need, ask it in a different way that's more inclusive.”

Is there anything specific nurses should be aware of?

“People who wear binders likely do not want to take them off, so we only do so briefly if we need to check something. Otherwise, we make sure they can keep them on so they feel comfortable. We also just need to know it’s there so we can account for it in taking weights.”

Have any of your patients expressed stigma or discrimination in their lives?

“I have patients who have told me about the discrimination that they've received, especially in schools. It's really bad for their mental health. Bullying in school happens. And then sometimes the teachers or parents are not supportive of their sexuality or gender identity. I feel so awful about it. But that’s why it’s so important to create a safe space in our clinic for them.”

Conclusion

We appreciate Nurse Suzanne taking the time to meet with us and hope her insights have been as helpful for you as we found them. At the end of the day, keeping an open mind, staying informed on best practices, and holding compassion for others will take you far in working with the LGBTQIA population.

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Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

As an integral center of UbiSim's content team, Ginelle pens stories on the rapidly changing landscape of VR in nursing simulation. Ginelle is committed to elevating the voices of practicing nurses, nurse educators, and program leaders who are making a difference.

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