Featured | AUG 13, 2019

Empowering Pediatric Nurses: Inclusive Care for LGBT Youth

Pediatric healthcare must accommodate LGBT youth's distinct health risks and needs. Inclusive practices, open communication, and enhanced medical education can make healthcare settings more welcoming for these vulnerable patients.


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Children and teens on the LGBT spectrum are poised at a significantly higher risk of a multitude of health issues, including suicidal ideation, depression, substance abuse, and HIV. On the external side, LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless, or if home, experience abuse. All healthcare professionals should attempt to cater to their LGBT patients to be able to address their unique concerns. Pediatric nurses and doctors should especially be equipped to deal with these issues, as their patients are more likely to be in vulnerable situations. Their nurse or primary care pediatrician may often be the only adult figure in their lives that they can trust. Unfortunately, medicine has only just begun to implement programs and practices that specifically benefit patients in the LGBT community. Sill, there are still a number of small measures that pediatricians and pediatric nurses can take to ensure their patients have a more inclusive experience in their care.

The first step does not even take place on the examination table. LGBT individuals, particularly those who do not live in a safe environment, often do mental evaluations on certain spaces (including healthcare facilities) to see if it is acceptable enough to reveal personal information about themselves. Some simple, yet effective ways to reassure LGBT patients is to provide unisex bathrooms, putting pink triangles or rainbow flags in view of patients, and spreading awareness for LGBT-focused occasions like World AIDS Day, or the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Small gestures such as these go a long way in gaining the trust of LGBT patients. 

During the patient’s actual appointment, be sure to use accommodating language. This ranges from clarifying preferred pronouns to asking if the patient is “partnered” rather than married to a husband or a wife. Above all, use open-ended, non-judgmental language when addressing anything related to sexual health. It is recommended to approach the subject as one might any other health issue. If a patient discloses any information, thank the individual for being open, and reassure them that this knowledge will allow you to assist them in remaining healthy individuals in the future. Since LGBT patients are more likely to withhold important information due to fear of discrimination, it is also important to emphasize that your goal is to keep the patient healthy, and the more open the patient is, the more worthwhile the visit. 

On the institutional level, healthcare education curriculums must provide robust content related to LGBT health issues, as well as how to interact with such patients. The group has a history of being marginalized in the medical field, with often deadly consequences. These risks are magnified in LGBT youth, which is why it is all the more imperative for pediatricians and pediatric nurses to be prepared to treat this set of patients with unique needs. 

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