As a travel nurse, you can deliver excellent 2SLGBTQIA+ patient care to Canadians from all backgrounds. Providing inclusive and affirming care to these individuals will ensure their positive and effective healthcare experiences. Select Medical Connections prioritizes providing a comfortable, safe, and understanding environment for all healthcare interactions. This blog shares our top 3 tips on how nurses can better interact with their 2SLGBTQIA+ patients. We hope you take advantage of the extra learning resources provided here and take the initiative to seek out further education. By educating yourself, you can become an ally to ensure every Canadian receives the care they deserve.

Tip 1) Improve 2SLGBTQIA+ Patient Care with Appropriate Language

As healthcare providers, it’s important to communicate in a way that shows understanding and compassion towards our patients, especially when it comes to their gender identity. By taking the time to use terminology that patients feel comfortable with, nurses can help create a more inclusive and welcoming environment, and by asking questions rather than making assumptions, patients feel seen and valued as unique individuals. Using positive language can truly transform a healthcare interaction which benefits both the patient and the provider. Let’s work together to improve our communication skills and make a difference in our patients’ lives. Here are some simple FAQs about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as developed by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. You are invited to learn more suitable language for 2SLGBTQIA+ patients in healthcare by reading their Equity and Inclusion Toolkit.

What do you do if you don’t know what gender someone identifies with? Simply ask, “What is your preferred pronoun?” If you make a mistake and misgender someone, just apologize and move on in your conversation.

What does the acronym 2SLGBTQIA+ represent?
2S – two-spirit
L – lesbian
G – gay
B – bisexual
T – transgender
Q – queer
I – intersex
A – asexual
+ – the plus acknowledges that not all expressions and identities are captured in the acronym, and that expression and identify are fluid and ever-evolving.

What is ‘two-spirit’? Two-spirit is an Indigenous term that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender nonconforming identities. It is also what the ‘2S’ stands for in LGBTQ2S+; it’s a person who identifies as having a spirit that is both masculine and feminine. Only Indigenous people can identify as being two-spirit.
What does the rainbow flag symbolize? The rainbow has been a symbol of LGBTQ2S+ pride since the 1970s. The following are the colours and what they signify:
– Red: life
– Orange: healing
– Yellow: sunlight
– Green: nature
– Blue: serenity
– Purple: spirit

Note: Some iterations of the Pride flag include a brown and black stripe. While great strides have been made in the queer community, Pride is still not always an inclusive space for Indigenous peoples, black people and racialized people. The new stripes are a visible symbol of the importance of these voices and experiences. This serves as a reminder that inclusion must be rooted in an intersectional approach to include those who have historically been and continue to be marginalized.

Tip 2) Be proactive: Educate yourself about 2SLGBTQIA+ patient care

Every patient is unique, and it’s critical to recognize the wide variety of experiences and identities within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Travel nurses should prioritize educating themselves and their colleagues on the intersectionality and issues that affect this community.  It’s no longer enough to focus on individual identities – qualified nurses must adapt their approach to provide excellent care to all patients. By being informed, you can confidently provide supportive and appropriate care for your patients. Not sure where to start? See below!

> Educate yourself about cultural humility

Quality patient care requires a sense of cultural humility. This is especially true when it comes to providing care for our 2SLGBTQIA+ patients. Being mindful of our own biases and recognizing that we may not have all the answers is key to building trust and rapport with these patients. It’s also important to understand the unique challenges that 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals face in accessing healthcare, and to actively work towards creating safe and inclusive environments for them. Cultural humility involves recognizing power imbalances and changing perspectives to support patients’ voices through active listening, reflection, and egolessness. By continuously educating ourselves and striving to improve our approach to patient care, we can ensure that our 2SLGBTQIA+ patients feel seen and heard, and that their healthcare needs are being met with kindness and compassion.

> Educate yourself about trauma-informed care

Trauma can have serious effects on a person’s health, both physically and mentally – that is why the healthcare industry is now prioritizing the consideration of patient trauma history. Trauma-informed practice recognizes that medical treatments can trigger past hardships, and patients seek safety, empowerment, transparency, and culturally sensitive care. By implementing trauma-informed care, we can aim to improve patient involvement, health results, and staff well-being while reducing unnecessary hospital visits. 

Learn more about The Key Ingredients for Successful Trauma-Informed Care Implementation.

> Educate yourself about why physical exams can be triggering

Physical exams can be uncomfortable or triggering for 2SLGBTQIA+ patients who may have experienced trauma, dysphoria, or discomfort. Take the time to explain the exam and ensure the patient is comfortable with the procedure. Ask if they would like a support person to be present and ensure their gender identity and preferred pronouns are respected.

> > Keep learning!

As healthcare professionals, your commitment to patient care requires ongoing education and skill development. Providing care to diverse communities is not just about obtaining a certification, it’s about a lifelong commitment to bettering ourselves for the sake of the patients we serve. It’s vital that we continue to create inclusive, respectul heathcare environments that consider the unique needs and experiences of these patients. If you are looking to deepen your knowledge and capacity to deliver top-notch 2SLGBTQIA+ patient care, there are online courses that can get you started. We encourage you to take a step forward in this learning journey with these online courses:
Rainbow Health Ontario
Trans Care BC

Did you know?

Discrimination and stigmatization on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation that individuals experience can be internalized and contribute to minority stress. The intersections of being 2SLGBTQIA+ with other elements of identity (e.g. race, disability, etc.) can exacerbate minority stress and contribute to poor health outcomes. Ref: Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health

Tip 3) Be an ally! Challenge bias and discrimination in your workplace

We are all responsible for speaking up against bias and discrimination against members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and challenging it if we observe it in our colleagues or policies. Speak out against stereotyping or inappropriate language, and advocate for the rights and well-being of your patients. When advocating for change, taking action can sometimes feel overwhelming but it’s important to remember that change starts with us and the people in our circles. By educating ourselves and those around us about the unique needs and experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+ patients, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and compassionate healthcare system. Luckily, there are plenty of helpful resources available that can guide us in these important conversations. Remember: even small steps can make a big difference. Let’s start with ourselves and those closest to us and work towards positive change together.

Healthcare is an essential service that every patient needs and deserves. At Select Medical Connections, we believe in ensuring that every community member feels comfortable and safe in your care. By following the top 3 tips outlined above, you can work towards creating a welcoming environment for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Select Medical Connections encourages you to take the time to educate yourself and your peers, and to continue to advocate for the rights of all patients. It’s never too late to make a difference in someone’s life, and when employed with our agency you can be assured you have a true ally for creating a safe and inclusive healthcare environment.

At Select Medical Connections, we understand that language is always changing. The language used in this blog post represents the time it was developed and is based on the references consulted. While we’ve made every effort to be inclusive, we respectfully acknowledge that the language used here may not reflect the views of all individuals. The 2SLGBTQIA+ acronym was chosen for this content to encompass the breadth of sexual and gender diversity among people and communities in Canada.