Author: nmakris

Tales from a First Timer


It’s hard to put into words what transpired at GLMA’s Nursing Summit today. Sixty-odd nurses of all ages and areas of nursing got together and had some really incredible conversations and brainstorming sessions about how to represent our field and serve our patients as LGBT healthcare providers. As someone who has been passionate about LGBT health issues and nursing for many years, I was a little first-day-of-school apprehensive as I packed my suitcase for my first GLMA conference, with doubts and reservations flitting around in my brain like moths: “Are these the right clothes?” “What if they all have PhDs and stuff?” “What’s a Nursing Summit, anyway?” “What if it’s just a bunch of old squares?”

Well, by the end of the day — knowing that there’s a  clinical skills-building class on anal dysplasia called “Ass Class” and one of our older members referred to her forgotten idea as “Lezheimers” — I’m at least sure I know the answer to that last question.

Certainly, as a newly minted RN continuing on for my MSN/FNP, I look to the nurses of GLMA for insight into professional practice and career development — what is it like serving the LGBT community? What are the barriers, what victories have you experienced? But what was present in the room today was a broad sense of camaraderie — a feeling that we have been tasked with the challenging but essential work of defining how nurses can provide quality, meaningful care to our LGBT patients while simultaneously asserting our presence as an integral section of the healthcare workforce.

So many ideas and thoughts were generated and shared today.

Some were sobering: one nurse reported research that found only 5% of nurses in the SF Bay Area knew what a gender-inclusive form was. Another told us that very few Magnet status facilities have LGBT-inclusiveness policies.

Other ideas were inspiring. Dr. Heather Young, Dean of UC Davis School of Nursing, encouraged us to practice cross-promotion as a way to fight tokenization. She said this in the context of interdisciplinary practice, but I couldn’t help but translate it as a tool we could also use when advocating for equity. What if LGBT nurses could be articulate about health disparities related to race and class as well as sexuality? We’ve got some big things to think about!

More than anything, today highlighted the collaborative nature of the professional nurse. It was validating to have my views and thoughts listened to and considered by nurses who possibly have more years of experience than I have years of life. Beyond that, it was exciting to hear the plans of action from our five focus groups. Look to hear more from the Nursing Section on our work in the fields of Policy, Training and Education, Clinical Practice and Patient Care, Research, and LGBT-positive Climate.

I’m not one for cameras, but as we wrapped up the day with a group picture, I did sneak into one of the back rows. Sometimes you just want it documented that you were part of making history.