In her HealthLeaders Media post, Alexandra Wilson Pecci examins how the assumptions of heterosexuality may lead to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) men and women not being forthcoming with their healthcare providers. This can lead to care that is not optimum due to not knowing the patient fully, but willing healthcare providers can do something to make the settings of their practices more comfortable for LGBT folks:
On the surface, the healthcare needs of gay and lesbian people might not seem different than anyone else’s. But institutionalized heterosexism in healthcare is a real barrier to quality care for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, and nurse leaders are poised to help remove those barriers for patients.
Nurses might thoughtlessly make presumptions about sexual orientation and say things such as “Is your wife with you?” to adult male patients. In states without marriage equality laws or where someone’s employment is in danger due to their sexual orientation, being forthcoming about answering these questions can be awkward or difficult.
Without knowing a patient’s sexual orientation, healthcare providers are unable to optimally address their unique health needs.
“There’s an arsenal of tools that can really influence the processes in place in your healthcare setting,” Zuzelo says. She points to resources from Healthy People 2020, which includes LGBT health in its topics and objectives. There’s also the Healthcare Equality Index which provides what Zuzelo says is “an opportunity for healthcare institutions to look to improve the way that they provide equitable and inclusive care.”