As the health care field continues to make strides toward becoming more welcoming, inclusive, and culturally competent for LGBT patients, mentorship between seasoned providers and new clinical staff are more important than ever. That’s what we are so proud that two Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and former students of Dr. Holly Fontenot, Adjunct Faculty member at The Fenway Institute, have recently published LGBT-focused articles in the latest issue of the Nursing For Women’s Health clinical journal.
The articles both tackle health care disparities for LGBT people, a specialty of Dr. Fontenot. “Over the last few years, I’ve really been trying to advance the School of Nursing’s curriculum around LGBT health issues, and that has been really positively received by the students that I mentor,” said Dr. Fontenot, who is also an Assistant Professor at Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing. “These students want to ensure that nursing case is appropriate and culturally inclusive of all sexual identities.”
In The Health Care Experiences of Lesbian Women Becoming Mothers, Isabel Gregg calls for providers to shift their pregnancy and neonatal language and care techniques away from a heteronormative model towards one more inclusive of the many different ways the modern family is shaped – including lesbian mothers. “Lesbian women and their families face particular difficulties with maternity care in the United States and internationally,” she writes. “Many care providers lack an understanding of this population’s specific health care needs.” Gregg examines the challenges faced by lesbian women while navigating motherhood for the first time. She also recommends ways that providers and the health care system as a whole can better provide culturally competent health care for lesbian mothers, of which it is estimated there are between 1 million and 5 million nationally.
“As the nature of family changes in our society, so must our understanding of the individuals who form a family unit,” Gregg writes. “Homophobic or heterosexist attitudes, heteronormative assumptions, and lack of knowledge regarding health needs for this population pose significant barriers, which may affect lesbian women’s experiences and interactions with their maternity care providers.”
A Literature Review of Cervical Cancer Screening in Transgender Men, authored by Kayla C. Gatos, examines the barriers to cervical cancer screening experienced by female-to-male (FTM) transgender men. The majority of transgender men retain their cervixes, Gatos notes, and therefore face the same risk of cervical cancer as cisgender women. However, due to a lack of gender affirming, trans-friendly screening options, transgender men are far less likely to receive cervical cancer screening or be up to date on their Pap tests. Additionally, misinformation related to human papillomavirus and cervical cancer risk is an issue for both health care providers and their FTM patients.
“FTM individuals are uniquely vulnerable to undetected chronic HPV infection and subsequent cervical cancer through lower reported rates of insurance coverage and routine health screening and greater reported rates of smoking, negative health care experiences, and discrimination and refusal of health services based on their gender identity,” Gatos writes.
“Nurses have good intentions and want to provide that great care that is inclusive of all persons, but might not get a lot of extra education about LGBT health; the journals are picking up on that,” said Dr. Fontenot. “Seeing these articles published was exciting for me because it helps my mission – which is the same as Fenway’s mission – and now I have more students who are wanting to do this work. It’s wonderful to see the next generation of nurses working to advance and improve LGBT health care.”
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