Nurses' attitudes towards lesbians and gay men

Gerd Röndahl, Sune Innala, Marianne Carlsson
Journal of Advanced Nursing 2004, 47 (4): 386-92

BACKGROUND: During the last decade, official policy and Swedish legislation have strengthened the legal rights of homosexuals and demanded tolerance for this group. There is evidence in the literature that homosexual patients have experienced negative attitudes and poor quality care from nurses, and may be unwilling to disclose their sexuality because of fears of discriminatory treatment.

AIMS: The aim of this paper is to report a study that investigated the attitudes of nurses towards lesbians and gay men and nurses beliefs about the causes of homosexuality.

METHOD: The study had a descriptive, comparative design. The Attitudes Toward Homosexuality Scale was used, along with Causes of Homosexuality Questionnaire. The participants were Registered Nurses and Assistant Nurses from one infectious disease clinic in central Sweden (response rate 67%, n = 57), and students enrolled in a university nursing programme and in upper secondary assistant nurses' training (response rate 62%, n = 165).

RESULTS: In general, participants expressed positive attitudes (62%). Nurses expressed the most positive attitudes, whereas the assistant nursing students expressed the least positive attitudes. A minority of the sample (30%) expressed neither positive nor negative attitudes. The most common belief about the cause of homosexuality was that it was congenital. Those who held this belief expressed more positive attitudes towards homosexuality than those who believed that homosexuality was acquired. Limitations of the study were that the sample was relatively small and not randomly selected.

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrated that attitudes have improved towards homosexuals compared with earlier international studies, although more needs to be done to increase the positive attitudes among the nursing staff and students with neutral attitudes (neither positive nor negative attitudes) to enhance the wellbeing of homosexual persons. General education about homosexuality is a necessary beginning to make homosexual patients visible, which is an important aspect of practical nursing ethics.

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