The following article features coverage from the 2018 Oncology Nursing Society’s Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage. 

WASHINGTON, DC — Experience in caring for sexual minority (lesbian, gay, bisexual) and gender minority (transgender) patients with cancer is high among currently practicing nurses, yet there are some knowledge gaps, but nurses are open to improving their understanding of this patient population, a study presented at the 2018 Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Annual Congress has shown.

An estimated 5.2 to 9.5 million US adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) face multifactorial barriers to health care such as discrimination, lack of insurance, healthcare provider/system insensitivity, distress from discordance between gender and genitalia, lack of evidence for clinical decision making, and limited exposure. Although efforts are being made to educate nursing students, little is known about the attitudes of currently practicing oncology nurses. 

Therefore, a team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) conducted an online survey to better understand currently practicing oncology nurses’ knowledge, beliefs, and skills toward LGBT patients, and to better identify the communication skills training needs of nurses. 

For the study, the MSKCC team surveyed nurses at the NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center on their knowledge and beliefs regarding healthcare needs of sexual and gender minority patients, communication behaviors toward these populations, willingness to treat LGBT patients, behaviors that encourage LGBT disclosure, and perceived importance of LGBT sensitivity training.

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The questionnaire consisted of 7 items measuring knowledge, adapted from published items; 12 items measuring beliefs, adapted from Sexual Orientation Beliefs Scale, Attitudes Toward Transgendered Individuals Scale, and published items; and 18 items measuring skills, adapted from Gay Affirmative Practice Scale, and quantitative and qualitative items identified by the study team.