LGBTQI and the Healthcare Community
The young doctor exclaimed, “Why you treat them, (the LGBT patient) just like you would treat any other human being, no problem, why do I need to be educated on that?”
On the surface it would seem that the Resident Physician is correct. However, in practice, it appears that physicians, being human as well, are not very tolerant of treating those that we perceive as being different from ourselves and despite our training may subject a patient to negligent care, no care or even cause harm based on our own and our greater culture’s prejudices.
The call to action here is that we as healthcare professionals need to be culturally competent professionals period and this takes self care and self reflection and a willingness to to talk to each and every human being in front of us, assuming nothing. If we don’t ask we don’t know and we miss screening for important health care risks.
Often times our negative beliefs cannot be hidden from our patients. Our patients are able to pick up on the tension in our bodies, the micro facial expressions that display either homophobia or heterosexual bias. Of course when a patient feels judged they become much less likely to be open about their health care needs or establishing a relationship with you as their healthcare professional. The patient physician bond is based on trust and intimacy. It is one of the largest gifts of being a healthcare professional. Human sexuality is a major part of what it means to be healthy so without being able to discuss sexuality in all of its forms and variations we miss the opportunity to treat our patient’s health care needs.
There are many small steps that we as healthcare professionals we can take:
Creating a welcoming environment;
Providing literature in our waiting room that acknowledges the LGBT culture;
Putting statements on display that say that everyone treated in your facility will receive equal and appropriate care regardless of sexual orientation etc.
The biggest step that we can take is to practice self-reflective care and awareness by examining our own biases. Checking ourselves just before we walk into the examining room to treat those who identify themselves as different from what we view as the heterosexual norm.
“Nature rarely deals with discrete categories…The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects”. Alfred Kinney
Think back to your own personal journey of sexuality regardless of your orientation and all of the personal challenges that you may have experienced or still may be experiencing as life unfolds and different scenarios arise with different stages of life. Perhaps these reflections will stimulate the whispering of compassion in our own heart for the challenges that your patient may be experiencing.
Finally, can you be the one who speaks up? Are you able to set aside your own biases in the best interest of providing outstanding care? Can you be that someone that the world comes to trust for honesty, integrity, and self-reflection?