It is no secret that LGBTQ topics are almost nonexistent in nursing school curricula. Although there is limited data to back up this claim, one recent study found that nursing students are exposed to approximately two hours of instruction related to LGBTQ health (Lim, Johnson, & Eliason, 2015). There are many reasons for the scarcity of LGBTQ content in curricula, such as no mandates from the accrediting bodies, lack of LGBTQ content in textbooks, and lack of knowledge and awareness among nursing faculty.
After co-authoring the above referenced article with Drs. Lim and Eliason, I was feeling pretty dismal about the lack of LGBT topics in nursing school curriculum. But something else happened… I started becoming more perceptive of the LGBT work that was happening around me. For example, a heterosexual cisgender colleague of mine who worked in a neighboring institution had developed a simulation scenario that allowed nursing students to practice caring for a transgender patient. That same colleague also approached her university’s provost to champion for the inclusion of LGBT topics throughout the nursing school’s undergraduate curriculum. Her request was successful and received a small grant to test the new content. Just after learning about the work of my colleague, I heard that a group of senior-level BSN students at my own institution was spearheading a project to increase LGBT knowledge among their student peers. They developed a 13-minute video titled, “LGBTQ Communication and Cultural Awareness for Nursing Students.” They got permission from an instructor to show the video to 35 junior-level nursing students. They administered a pre- and post-test to the students and found that the video was markedly effective at improving knowledge about LGBT health. I am now at a new institution and have already identified work being done by colleagues and students to improve LGBT health.
Over the past four years, I have taken undergraduate nursing students to work with the most vulnerable communities, such as the homeless, refugees from war torn countries, and veterans battling mental illness and addiction. I always told my students to look for the positives in the communities. Even though I have preached the “half glass full” attitude to my students, I tend to forget to do that in my own work. Moreover, like many other people in academia and health care, I spend so much time working in my “silo” that I forget to look at the great things people are doing around me. I am learning that if I take a walk outside the confines of my office and listen to what other people are doing, I am pleasantly surprised by the work others are doing to improve LGBT health. It reminds me that we are collectively heading down the right path!