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.
“There are many ways. Here are some:
“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.”
“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?’ “
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.