Advice and development

Homophobia is just poor care by another name

Not that long ago I found myself sitting in a meeting discussing the role of men in nursing.

Not that long ago I found myself sitting in a meeting discussing the role of men in nursing.

I couldn’t help but speak out when individuals lamented how being ‘assumed’ to be gay was putting men off a career in healthcare.

No one meant any offence – we all know it is a myth and that most of our male colleagues are straight. But being presumed to be gay is not a bad thing, no more than being presumed to be straight. After all, as most gay people find, the presumption of being straight has been made about me since birth.

The hardest part of starting a placement can be ‘coming out’. Being gay is nothing nowadays; for me, it’s just a small correction when people ask if I have a girlfriend. For others, though, the noticeable death of the conversation at such times makes their discomfort clear. And while I have never experienced hatred or prejudice directly from healthcare staff, I must admit there have been awkward moments.

It may be awkward for LGBT patients trusting a nurse with their care.

 

If it’s awkward for me, how must it feel for lesbian, gay, bixesual and trans (LGBT) patients and their families, trusting a nurse with their care?

 

A YouGov survey commissioned by Stonewall last year found that, of 3,000 health and social care workers, 10% had witnessed a colleague express the belief that gay and bisexual people could be ‘cured’. Furthermore, one quarter of gay and lesbian staff reported that they had experienced homophobic bullying in the past five years. Many of them said they did not feel confident reporting it to management.

 

This country has the most advanced gay rights we’ve ever seen, but attitudes still have some way to go. Whenever a mentor is grading me, I have to weigh up my pride against my career as I consider telling them my sexuality. It isn’t a nice feeling.

 

There are still improvements to be made in health services when it comes to LGBT people, be it colleagues or those in our care. Regardless of colleagues’ views, I get to go home at the end of my shift. The same isn’t true of patients. One in four gay people experience domestic abuse and there is a higher incidence of drug use among the gay population.

 

From having a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, to increased incidence of depression and other mental health problems, LGBT people desperately need nurses who are comfortable dealing with LGBT issues.

 

As professionals we need to start taking homophobia as seriously as we do poor care – because that is what it represents.

 

Some of us will need to work past our own prejudices, while all of us need to start speaking up. Our professional code asks that we embrace diversity and empower our patients, and it is time we lived up to those standards, for the sake of our patients and the future of our profession.

 

NHS Health with Price www.healthwithpride.nhs.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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