Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Nurses call for end to homophobia and heterosexism in health care

TORONTO, June 21, 2007 - 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.

Read Respecting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

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 more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605