Thursday, July 23, 2009

Proven to be helpful for lesbians to come out to providers

Lesbian Women:  Come Out to Your Providers!

Current studies on lesbian access to health care and participation in preventative health report that lesbian women experience an increased comfort with “coming out” to providers, but screening rates for this population still remain low (Steele, Tinmouth, & Lu, 2006, p.631; Roberts, 2006). Unfortunately, lesbian women still experience an increased risk of cancer due to a lack of screening (Roberts, 2006) and inadequately addressed health concerns and needs (Polek, Hardie, & Crowley, 2008).
You can help by talking to your provider! Your overall health outcomes are improved by sharing your history of sexual behaviors. This action increases the likelihood you will access health care services and experience an increased satisfaction of care (Polek, et al., 2008), but let’s not stop there! Providers must know that sexual orientation does not determine sexual behavior (Hutchinson, Thompson & Cederbaum, 2006, P. 394). As with any political identity, lesbian women’s health needs are not clearly defined due to variations within the community and present difficulties to target for health prevention and services (Hutchinson, et al., 2006; Polek, et al., 2008; Steele, et al., 2006). This is why your increased awareness and the actions of health care providers are instrumental to changing the state of health care access.
Health providers must take clear steps to reduce barriers to care for lesbian women. Some suggestions from Gay and Lesbian Medical Association ( and Mautner Project ( include:
·         “creating nonjudgmental office environments”
·         “advocating for inclusive language in all paperwork”
·         “asking, rather than making assumptions about sexual behavior and identity”
·         ” posting a nondiscriminatory policy in offices and waiting areas”
·         “training all professional and nonprofessional personnel in cultural competence”
·         “inquiring about sexual behavior rather than sexual orientation”
·         “ using gender-neutral language” (Polek, et al., 2008, p.248)
As a patient, you can go to GLMA’s website to search providers and encourage providers that provide a “welcoming” environment to join!
Hutchinson, M. K., Thompson, A. C., Cederbaum, J. A. (2006). Multisystem factors contributing to disparities in preventative health care among lesbian women. JOGNN, 35, 393-402.
Polek, C. A., Hardie, T. L., & Crowley, E. M. (2008). Lesbian's disclosure of sexual orientation and satisfaction with care. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 19, 243-249.
Roberts, S. J. (2006). Health care recommendations for lesbian women. JOGNN, 35, 583-591.
Steele, L. S., Tinmouth, J. M., Lu, A. (2006). Regular health care use by lesbians: a path analysis of predictive factors. Family Practice, 23, 631-636.