From the Editor
LGBT Issues in Health Care
Twenty years ago, in the hospital where I worked at the time, part of my responsibilities included working in partnership with the county health department to provide spiritual care to persons living with HIV and AIDS. I ran a support group, functioned as the lead in providing chaplaincy care to persons when they were hospitalized, and was involved in community outreach and education programs.
I remember how the LGBT community met me tentatively at first. Many revealed to me that due to past experiences they were fearful about how I would interact with them. Story after story was shared with me about encounters that had been disrespectful, judgmental, and dismissive, especially when they interacted with the health care system. Before long, I was being called when someone was on the way to being admitted to the hospital. I was viewed as the “safe person, the guardian who will stand up for us.”
There were several occasions when I confronted less-than-respectful care from the hospital staff. I’ll never forget the afternoon when one of the AIDS patients was admitted to the hospital directly from his doctor’s office. As sick as he was, he called me as soon as he got to his room. When I went up, I found that the nurse hadn’t entered the room. She stood at the door asking his admission questions. She tossed a gown towards the bed, telling him to change. When I asked her why she wasn’t helping him, she said that she didn’t want to get close to him: “I think he deserved what he got.”
I wish I could say that we’ve come a long way in healthcare in the ways that we treat LGBT persons – and in some ways we have. But there is still much to be done. I can recall not too long ago when I ran across staff in a trauma room making comments and laughing about a patient’s transgender dress as well as the family waiting anxiously outside for information.
June is nationally proclaimed as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. It is a time for each one of us to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of those we encounter not only personally, but as part of our professional work.
Each of us as professionals can contribute to improving the care of LGBT patients, encouraging a LGBT workforce, and supporting LGBT chaplain colleagues. Because of the importance of these topics, this issue of PlainViews has been designated as Open Access with the hope that it will bring information, resources, and dialogue to a wide audience. Share this issue with others and help raise the bar.
Some of the topics being sought for upcoming issues of PlainViews:
• Making the case for why your chaplaincy work is important: how to talk to administrators
• Chaplains and communication: patient handoffs
• Writing protocols for chaplaincy care
• Making a difference (and how you know you did)
• Chaplaincy with special populations: pediatrics, adolescents, sandwich generation
• Chaplaincy care in addiction and recovery
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