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Nursing researchers examine inclusivity for sexual and gender minorities in a health care setting

A nurse might ask a woman at an OB-GYN prenatal care appointment if her husband is with her, only to find out the woman’s female partner is with her. A doctor may ask a transgender man how many female sexual partners he has had, and the man says none, but the actuality is he has had more than 20 male partners.

Situations like these may cause gay, lesbian and other sexual and gender minority individuals to feel their health care providers are not being inclusive, or they may even feel discriminated against. These situations may even cause them to avoid returning for future appointments and care, which can imperil the health of this population that is already higher-risk for physical and mental problems compared to heterosexual, cisgender individuals.

Researchers from the College of Nursing are working to advance health outcomes in sexual and gender minority individuals, who face disparities in access to care compared to heterosexual and cisgender individuals. The researchers, Britney Wardecker, Cara Exten, and Oluwamuyiwa Adebayo, hope their work will help providers better understand the needs, challenges and resilience of these groups.

“Many LGBTQ people face difficult health challenges as a result, to some extent, of stigma and discrimination,” Wardecker said. “There’s a vicious cycle with health disparities and feeling like you can’t access the care you need. If people are having more health troubles, they will need to see health care providers more. But if they avoid seeing a health care provider, those disparities will worsen.”

Wardecker, Exten and Adebayo are assistant professors on the tenure-track faculty in the college. Their research is expanding the body of knowledge about sexual and gender minorities and how stressors, stigma and discrimination can affect their outcomes and care.

Similar topics are studied at Penn State College of Medicine, which created the Office for Culturally Responsive Health Care Education to help ensure students are best positioned to serve these and other diverse populations after graduation.

Read more in this Penn State News story

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