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Seven tips for nurses caring for LGBTQ patients

Here’s how nurses can care for the LGBTQ in an informed manner.

The LGBTQ community needs proper healthcare and representation. As discussions around these communities are rapidly evolving, it is also essential to recognize their needs. Nurses are critical in outlining an appropriate program of healthcare while caring for LGBTQ patients. These include understanding their psychological, physiological, and biological needs. The discussion should extend to health risks these communities face, such as psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. This is why knowledge and education play an essential part in caring for such patients.

Here’s how nurses can care for the LGBTQ in an informed manner:

1. Expand Knowledge on the LGBTQ

Nurses should exert themselves in understanding all the facets that make up the community. These include learning about sexual orientation and gender identity, which play a role in providing primary care. Online platforms are an excellent place to start. Nurses can join forums, use search engines and even listen to community representatives to understand the LGBTQ.

In addition, nurses should also supplement their knowledge by advancing their degrees. After becoming registered nurses, they should look into acquiring a master’s. This would enable them to intern in clinics and hospitals which the LGBTQ community frequents. Therefore, a master’s in nursing online is another stepping stone in expanding a nurse’s knowledge about the community. Fortunately, online education allows them to study at their own pace.

2. Create a Welcoming LGBTQ Environment

The LGBTQ are no strangers to discrimination and miscommunication. In the past, there have been cases of them getting turned away instead of getting care. These situations need immediate remedying, which nurses can play a significant role in. They can do this by making sure the healthcare institutions are welcoming to the community. When a patient is filling out the paperwork, non-binary options indicate their sexual orientation.

They should ensure the hospital mentions inclusivity and diversity by highlighting policies for the community. It would help if hospitals also displayed rainbow flags and pink triangles. These measures can help LGBTQ not only feel welcomed but also comfortable seeking treatment.

3. Use Inclusive Language

When conversing with patients, nurses should mind the way they talk. They can start by reflecting on the words the patient uses for themselves. For example, instead of calling a patient Mr or MS, they should ask the patient what they prefer. Before starting any examination, the patient’s comfort and consent are essential. If the patient would like another nurse in the room, they should get accommodated.

The patient data should get documented the way the patient prefers. Misidentifying and gendering can pose a problem. It is also both offensive and insulting to the patient when they are not acknowledged. Nurses should also use terms like menstruating person and currently nursing for patients who don’t identify as women.

4. Keep Questions Open Ended

It’s not a patient’s job to educate their nurse. Nurses should catch up on reading about the community on their time. What nurses should practice is keeping questions open-minded. Thank the patient for their visit and ask them what else the hospital can do for them. Nurses should not overwhelm the patient by asking questions irrelevant to why they’re seeking treatment. If nurses feel extra information is needed, they should inform the patient why they think that way.

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Nurses should mind that while some patients may be forthcoming, others may be reserved. Pushing them, exerting authority, or putting words in their mouth will not help. For example, some LGBTQ members are polyamorous. Unless the nurse needs to run STD tests and blood work, bringing up their sex life holds no bearing.

5. Understand Their Mental Health

LGBTQ patients are dealing with different societal stigmas. They have to deal with phobias, violent hate crimes, and even abuse from their families. It is not uncommon for the community to get publicly ostracized and even kicked out of their houses at a young age. Consequently, these patients have a high chance of their mental health deteriorating, including getting depressed and anxious. It is not also not uncommon for them to turn to substances and even unprotected sex to cope with their situation. So, when these community members come for a check-up, it is also essential to take notice of their status.

If a patient is living in impoverished conditions, it is necessary to account for their mental standing. If a patient has poor mental health, it will take a toll on their body. Paying attention to their mental health also informs nurses on how to help the patient. Generic advice such as improving their diet and exercise cannot help. Instead, work with what they can do. If the mental health symptoms need professional intervention, nurses should get an LGBTQ-friendly psychiatrist onboard.

6. Study Individual Cases

Transgender people may still get sex-related and reproductive cancers. Nurses should read up on transitioning and the steps the community takes to transition. These can help nurses learn when they deal with a transgender person what to expect. Cases such as prolonged exposure to sex hormones can provide valuable insight to nurses if the transgender person may get breast cancer. It will help if these nurses consult doctors who are leading experts since the knowledge is not readily available.

So immense care and in-depth studying are needed for every case to prevent misdiagnosing and hurting the patient. Medical schools play only a minor role in educating nurses on the fundamentals of medicine. This knowledge needs to get researched by the nurses.

7. Nurses Should Reserve Judgement

Nurses should not hold opinions and judgments about the patients they meet. It’s not their place to decide how a patient should get treated and push conventional gender identities on them. Nurses need to practice empathy, kindness, and respect for the patients they meet. Under no circumstance should they use force or exasperation if they fail to understand what the patient is telling them.

Nurses should also never assume that everyone in the LGBTQ community suffers from the same symptoms and issues. So nurses should practice their interpersonal and culture-sensitive language as much as possible. These can avoid causing a rift and violating a patient’s right to seek care.

Final Words

The LGBTQ community deserves quality treatment and care. However, to make that happen, nurses need to educate themselves. Discrimination can prove to be fatal in healthcare settings. Unless nurses know who the patient is and how they identify, the chances of misdiagnosis are high. So, nurses can start by expanding their knowledge by learning the correct terms. They should create a welcoming healthcare environment, including drafting inclusive forms. In addition, the language they should use is proper and falls in line with how the patient refer to themselves. Finally, understanding their circumstances is very important, including mental health cases and transitions to help form a proper diagnosis. All of these factors are important in caring for LGBTQ patients.

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