As Pride month ramps up to its big finale, nurses will never stop being LGBTQIA+ allies
Nurses vow to help and heal all people — every day, every year.
It’s late June, and registered nurse Christina Granucci, of northern California, is gearing up for a trip to the lake. But this RN and mother explained, when we spoke recently, that she won’t be napping and sunbathing on her summertime adventure. Granucci, a volunteer with the RN Response Network, is instead spending her vacation as first aid staff at the Laurel Foundation’s camp for transgender youth.
“This assignment was close to my heart,” said Granucci, whose oldest child is transgender. Having watched her son struggle with anxiety around seeking health care, not wanting to “explain his back story,” Granucci said that in addition to caring for any camp-related first aid issues and distributing campers’ medications — she will be present for the kids as an ally.
“We all became nurses because we want to help,” she emphasized. “Nurses see people as holistic human beings. Whatever is going on with you, if you need support or help or care, nurses are there.”
Granucci’s words could not ring more true. As registered nurses, our profession is built on a foundation of non-discrimination. RNs are duty bound to advocate for all people, assessing what patients need to achieve and maintain good health — including respect for their identity.
In my years as an Intensive Care Unit RN, it was always important to me that my patients and their family members, who came to me at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives, were treated with dignity. The relationship between social acceptance and health isn’t just a matter close to nurses’ hearts; it’s a matter of science.
A 2017 edition of the European Journal of Social Psychology found that when people were given a sense of meaning, support and agency, by belonging to a group, their health was positively impacted. The opposite was also found to be true; when social identity was challenged or stigmatized, patients’ health suffered. Science shows us — and RNs know — that even something as simple as the common cold is impacted by social ties.
In a nation where LGBTQ+ patients still face blatant discrimination (to date, there are no federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, and our transgender patients in particular face an epidemic of violence), it is perhaps not surprising that LGBTQ+ patients also experience poorer health outcomes, compared to the general population.
A 2017 study showed that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for substance use, sexually transmitted diseases, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, bullying, isolation, rejection, anxiety, depression — and suicide. In fact, a recent Human Rights Campaign report revealed shockingly high rates of attempted suicide, with more than half of surveyed transgender male teens, 29.9 percent of transgender female teens and 41.8 percent of non-binary teens reporting a suicide attempt within in their lifetime.
In the face of this health crisis for our LGBTQ+ patients, RNs will never be silent. As union nurses, we know that our power is in our solidarity, and when we stand together — in the workplace, in our legislators’ offices, and in the streets — we can move mountains.
So beyond the walls of the hospital, our women-dominated profession fights for gender justice, and all the social determinants of health — including health care as a human right, affordable housing, racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice. Our patients’ illnesses and injuries often begin out in the world, and nurses see it as an extension of the oath we take, as patient advocates, to be out in the world, collectively fighting for change.
Our other fight is at the bedside. At every step of the way, over a lifetime of care, nurses will always be there for our LGBTQ+ patients. The month of June is a time to celebrate pride, but nurses will honor and advocate for the health and safety of our LGBTQ+ communities each and every day.
Sometimes that nurse advocacy means marching by our LGBTQ+ patients’ sides — other times, it means making lightning fast decisions to save their lives. And on an upcoming California adventure, it means that every soothed insect bite or other care given to transgender campers will be done by their biggest champion.
As Granucci readies for her upcoming trip, she says she will be there for first aid, but also for the “love and acceptance all kids need to grow up into productive people.”
“Talk to nurses — because nurses have your back,” Granucci said. “We are there for you, we are advocating for you, and we support you.”