Nurses call for end to homophobia and heterosexism in health care

    TORONTO, June 21 /CNW/ - As Toronto's Pride Week marks a series of events
across the province to celebrate diverse sexual and gender identities, the
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is calling on nurses and
health-care organizations to eliminate discriminatory attitudes and practices
which create barriers to inclusive and appropriate health care.
    Today, RNAO released a position statement entitled 'Respecting Sexual
Orientation and Gender Identity' to address homophobia and heterosexism in the
health-care system which can limit access to health-care services and
compromise health. Up to 1.25 million people in Ontario identify themselves as
members of gender or sexual minority communities. A Health Canada survey found
that the rates of unmet health-care needs among gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender people were nearly double those of heterosexuals.
    One reason this diverse population doesn't always receive the care it
needs is because some avoid traditional health-care settings for fear that
they will experience discrimination or be refused care, explains RNAO
President Mary Ferguson-Paré. "We have to confront these issues head on and
ensure that nurses and other health-care providers treat all patients
respectfully," she says.
    "Nurses want to provide the best care possible for all their patients. To
meet the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, it is
essential to understand the complexities of their lives. By issuing this
position statement, we are asking nurses to examine their own attitudes and
beliefs and to learn more about providing holistic care to members of diverse
communities. As frontline health-care providers, nurses can play an important
role in fostering respect for sexual diversity and making our health-care
system inclusive," says Ferguson-Paré.
    Health-care organizations must also adapt in order to meet the needs of
diverse clients and the RNAO's position statement outlines steps they should
take. "Organizations must assess the services they provide to determine
whether members of all communities have equal access to care. The next step is
to develop, implement and monitor policies to ensure that services, procedures
and environments are respectful of sexual diversity. It is essential to
include members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in
this process," says RNAO Executive Director Doris Grinspun.
    The position statement also stresses the importance of creating work
environments where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender nurses and other
health professionals do not experience discrimination from colleagues or
clients. "Genuine respect for diversity is essential to building workplaces
and societies where all people enjoy health and well-being. Nurses of diverse
sexual and gender identities must feel as comfortable at work as their
heterosexual colleagues and must have the same opportunities for professional
development and career advancement," says Grinspun.
    To read 'Respecting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity', please visit

    The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional
association for registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for
healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased
nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced
decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

For further information:

For further information: Jill-Marie Burke, Media Relations Coordinator,
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, Work phone: (416) 408-5606, Mobile
phone: (647) 504-4008, Toll-free: 1-800-268-7199, ext.250,

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