Clinical placements

Difficult placement taught me how to challenge prejudice in practice

During a clinical placement, I realised some staff had judgemental attitudes and beliefs that could cause offence.

During a clinical placement, I realised some staff had judgemental attitudes and beliefs that could cause offence.

These staff members frequently used homophobic slurs to make ‘jokes’ about colleagues and, on one occasion, a patient.

'Wrong' homour

They vocalised views that those who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning (LGBTQ) were ‘wrong’, or deliberately doing so to stand out from others. They made comments about how LGBTQ people could be cured of their ‘affliction’, in the same way medical staff might cure a disease – a view many find offensive.

Their humour was based around suggesting that colleagues were gay – which was meant as an insult. It was shocking to witness in a professional environment.

Concealing identity

I felt under considerable pressure to keep my own sexual orientation anonymous, for fear of prejudice, as well as potential emotional or psychological harm, or detriment to my placement outcome.

Because of this, I decided to conceal this part of my identity, worrying I would be regarded as ‘different’ and set apart from the rest of the team.

Choosing to conceal rather than confront this issue is nothing new. This type of concealment by minority groups who have wanted to maintain their place in society or a group can be seen across history.

Shocked by the attitudes I had encountered, I contacted one of my university tutors for advice.

Challenging alternatives

My tutor talked to me about alternative ways of challenging these beliefs in any area in which discrimination may occur.

I have applied these methods to my own clinical practice by maintaining a non-judgemental approach to patients and staff.

I understand now that during my placement I did not take action for fear of failure or rejection. Having experienced this isolation, I realised that it is not acceptable for anyone to feel unable to access the care or support they need for this reason. Since then, I have learned that I must develop confidence and assertiveness in the care delivery team to help address this sort of discriminatory behaviour.

I am now more forceful in challenging discriminatory practice and beliefs – not just LGBTQ-related discrimination, but all potentially harmful comments. I am also confident about talking privately with a staff member to explain that their choice of words may have been unintentionally offensive to a particular patient.

Having reflected on this difficult situation, and after talking to my tutor, I feel more able to challenge these types of views in future placements and in my nursing career.

NMC requirements

The Nursing and Midwifery Council requires that all nursing practice is fair and just, and states that it is the role and responsibility of the nurse to combat discriminatory or oppressive practice.

I am aware I may encounter similar issues in the future, but I now have a range of approaches and personal resources to use when faced with similar discriminatory practice.

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