Every Rainbow Requires A Spectrum
I cannot think of another profession where it is of the utmost importance to have a thorough understanding and active participation in diversity, equity, and inclusion than healthcare. Each shift, we not only care for patients and families from all walks of life, but there is also a spectrum of diversity amid the team of healthcare workers that we directly work with. With this in mind, I am honored to have been asked to provide my perspective on this topic for the PCICS newsletter.
As a gay male nurse, I want to first thank the women who founded and built this profession. One of the best things about this job is that anyone can pursue a successful career in nursing—regardless of age, sex, gender identity, race, or any other identifying factor. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this profession that is open to everyone and I credit that to the strong female nursing leadership.
I am currently 6 years into my nursing career and as a travel nurse, I often find myself starting each new contract by putting my guard up until I know that I am in a safe environment. The majority of people I know in the LGBTQ+ community—particularly in the southern parts of the US—understand that there is a need to almost have dual personalities. When we’re at work, we will put on a persona that does not delve deep into our personal lives and we will change the tone in our voices and our mannerisms to fit in with our surroundings. This is our self-taught survival mode, and it kicks in every time we are in a new environment—especially when we are unsure if those who we are working with are going to have an issue with our sexuality or gender identity.
In the past, I have had coworkers say derogatory comments about how I am too “flamboyant” to be taken seriously and I have even been removed from a patient’s care team because the patient’s religious mother told me that her infant daughter “sees something in you that she doesn’t like.” These situations occurred because people in my work environment viewed my sexuality as a hinderance to my nursing capability. Although it is disheartening that this happens even now in 2021, I have also experienced amazing responses from coworkers and patients. People often feel safe to confide in me because I remind them of their “gay best friend,” I have bonded with patients over makeup artists and drag queens, and I have let many patients paint my nails in exchange for ambulating. And it’s in these moments that I understand that being different has become one of my greatest strengths as a nurse.
As healthcare professionals, we should always have the goal to provide an accepting environment for our coworkers and our patients. If we can continue to foster a workplace that is diverse, equal, and inclusive to where we all feel safe to be our authentic selves, we will see our profession grow into something even more beautiful. After all, every rainbow requires a spectrum.
Jason Giangrosso, RN, BSN, CCRN
Pediatric cardiac critical care nurse
Travel Nurse, Trusted Health
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital
San Francisco, CA