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LGBT+ research discovers health and social workers need further training to 'reduce biases and stereotypes'

Nurses and social care employees from strict religious backgrounds may have more 'negative attitudes' towards LGBT+ people, study finds

Health and social care workers across Europe need more training and awareness on LGBT+ issues to help reduce “biases and stereotypes”, based on new research.

The study suggests health professionals and academics from strict religious cultures were also more likely to have “negative attitudes” towards LGBT+ people .

A total of 412 health and social care workers and academics from six European countries – Germany, Cyprus, Denmark, the UK, Romania and Spain – were surveyed as part of a major cross-cultural project ‘Intercultural Education for Nurses in Europe’ (IENE 9) which is being led by Middlesex University and part funded by Eramus+.

“If you are a social care or health worker who is not acknowledging a partnership or discrimination because of sexual preference then you could be failing to provide the appropriate level of support that person deserves." Alfonso Pezzella, Mental Health Lecturer.

Researchers asked the participants questions about their awareness of LGBT+ issues and terms, level of training, experiences of witnessing discrimination and levels of compassion and negativity towards LGBT+ people in their profession and society.

The findings showed:

  • Romania showed more negative attitudes toward lesbian and gay people than all other countries
  • German and Romanian participants were less likely to know about homophobic or transphobic discrimination
  • The need for training on LGBT+ issues were higher for Cyprus, Romania, Spain, Italy, and the UK, compared with Denmark
  • Participants from Germany and Romania reported fewer compassionate attitudes than all other countries, while the UK and Spain reported the highest levels of compassion toward LGBT+ people
  • Cyprus and Italy participants reported the highest number of incidents of witnessing discrimination

The research suggests a link between less understanding of LGBT+ issues and religious background, stating: “Based on our findings, it is reasonable to suggest that the common elements that bind the countries with the lower tolerance and acceptance of LGBT+ people and the most negative attitudes about them are religion and patriarchy.

“Cyprus and Romania are countries that adhere to the strong ethic and morality of the Greek Orthodox Church which continues to preach that homosexuality and other forms of non-binary sexual behaviours are sinful.”

The report concluded: “Strategies that reduce biases and stereotypes in health and social care professionals are pivotal steps towards increasing access to care by LGBT+ populations and reducing health disparities and key competencies, including intercultural, social, and digital skills.

“We believe that too little attention has been focused on the training needs of health and social care professionals concerning LGBT+ issues.”

Alfonso Pezzella, a Lecturer in Mental Health at Middlesex University who led the research, called for more specialist services for LGBT+ people such as gender clinics and counselling.

He said: “The services we provide need to be more inclusive to LGBT+ people.

“Even in the UK, some health workers do not allow same-sex couples into the consultation room because in their eyes they say it’s not a relationship.

“If you are a social care or health worker who is not acknowledging a partnership or discrimination because of sexual preference then you could be failing to provide the appropriate level of support that person deserves.

“Some nurses from other countries still have certain attitudes perhaps because of their upbringing and culture and so we must ensure they are trained to be compassionate and culturally aware towards the LGBT+ community.

“The danger of health and social care professionals ignoring LGBT+ issues could result in malpractice because we know from research that LGBT+ people are more likely to develop a mental health issues and be at risk of health inequalities.”

As part of the IENE 9 project, a first-ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will be developed to increase the knowledge and skills of health and social care teams in LGBT+ issues.

Read the research:  LGBT+ Training Needs for Health and Social Care Professionals and visit the IENE LGBT+ website.

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