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LGBT Health Disparities Persist, But Nurses Can Help

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, February 25, 2014

Healthcare providers are unable to optimally address a patient's health needs without knowing a person's sexual orientation. But assumptions of heterosexuality are the norm. Nurse leaders can work toward reducing heterosexism in healthcare.


Patti R. Zuzelo

Patti R. Zuzelo
EdD, RN, ACNS-BC, ANP-BC, CRNP, FAAN

On the surface, the healthcare needs of gay and lesbian people might not seem different than anyone else's. But institutionalized heterosexism in healthcare is a real barrier to quality care for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, and nurse leaders are poised to help remove those barriers for patients.

"There are lots and lots of practice influences that do affect the health of people who are identified as LGBT," says Patti R. Zuzelo, EdD, RN, ACNS-BC, ANP-BC, CRNP, FAAN, a Clinical Professor of Nursing at the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University and past president of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists. She will speak about this topic, including how clinical nurse specialists can improve healthcare and access for the LGBT community, at NACNS's annual conference next month in Orlando, FL.

Zuzelo says that healthcare often starts with "an assumption of heterosexuality that can be very uncomfortable for the patient." For instance, health assessments or registration forms often include questions such as whether the patient is male or female, married, or unmarried.

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