As many of us already know, June is Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to pride parades and celebrations, businesses and individuals across the country can take the opportunity to show their support for the community—including hospitals. Many hospitals display decorations and may fly a Pride flag at their entrance.
That being said, we want to take a moment to acknowledge that many nurses care with pride every day. They are a vital part of facilitating equal healthcare for everyone, and that’s what we will talk about today.
Nurses Have Played an Essential Role in More Inclusive Healthcare
While doctors have long taken the Hippocratic Oath and nurses follow a Nursing Code of Ethics, healthcare hasn’t always been inclusive. There have been significant stigmas against the LGBTQ+ community throughout history, and at times these have been prevalent enough to impact patient care directly.
During the 1980s-1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was intertwined with the existing prejudice against the gay community. Some healthcare providers were reluctant to treat or even touch patients with HIV, but nurses were responsible for helping to change the narrative—and healthcare overall.
Registered nurses (RNs) in a dedicated AIDS unit went out of their way to treat patients with respect, even touching them without gloves. They also fought hard to change policies about who was allowed to be with patients at the end of life; previously, only biological family members or spouses could visit, which prevented unmarried partners or friends from seeing their loved ones.
Nurses Should Provide Care without Discrimination
Discrimination in medical settings can be deadly, so it’s for good reason that the Nursing Code of Ethics requires that nurses provide care to patients without discrimination. In most states, healthcare providers legally cannot discriminate against someone who needs care.
Many nurses go into the profession because they care deeply about helping people, so this is a legal and ethical requirement that many don’t think twice about. Members of the LGBTQ+ community can go to healthcare facilities, and they should feel confident in their ability to receive the care they need and be honest about any risk factors, symptoms, or conditions they have without the risk of being treated as less than anyone else.
Nurses Should Treat Patients with Dignity and Respect
It is theoretically possible to provide medical treatment as needed without discrimination while also treating someone without respect. Unfortunately, this can happen; patients may be shamed by judgmental providers for things like their lifestyle, weight, or disease management.
Many nurses understand the importance of treating patients with dignity and respect. There’s no judgment when discussing a patient’s marriage or sexual history, and a patient’s partner and family members should be welcomed and treated with respect, too.
Treating a patient with respect is not only important for ethical reasons, but it’s also practical. The more comfortable and respected a patient feels, the more they can trust their healthcare providers with important information that can improve their overall care.
Nurses Should Keep a Patient’s Confidence
Nurses are often the healthcare workers that spend the most face-to-face time with patients, especially in hospitals or other in-patient medical facilities. They’ll typically get to know patients more in-depth than supervising physicians; in fact, they may obtain important information about a patient’s life and health that the patient didn’t disclose to their physician.
It’s not uncommon for nurses to learn that a patient is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, even if the patient isn’t out to friends, family, or employers. They may disclose something to you that they don’t want anyone in their family to know.
Nurses are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires that healthcare providers keep a patient’s confidence. They cannot share a patient’s medical history without the patient’s express permission, including with friends, family, or other medical providers.
How Nurses Can Celebrate Pride
Nurses can make a huge impact by caring for all of their patients on a daily basis. Treating patients with kindness, openness, confidentiality, and without discrimination are among the most important pillars of the job, both during and outside of Pride Month.
While it’s important to note that some nurses may not maintain these standards, many consider them a crucial aspect of their jobs.
If you’re looking to take specific actions to honor Pride Month, consider the following:
- Add a Pride pin to your badge or name tag.
- Honor a patient’s stated pronouns.
- Learn more about medical concerns that directly impact patients in the LGBTQ+ community; trans patients, in particular, may be undergoing gender-affirming treatments that can affect other areas of their care.
How do you celebrate and honor Pride? Join our community and let us know what you think!