Trust between a nurse and their patient is one of the strongest assets a healthcare provider can carry in their repertoire. Unfortunately, social and health discrimination against minority groups around the world makes offering trust more difficult.

Lansing, Mich.-based nurse practitioner Kristal Richardson-Aubrey and her team aim to approach this reality with empathy and understanding.

“When we don’t have an awareness of it, then we tend to play into the issue,” says Aubrey-Richardson, who runs an outpatient clinic and is an alumna of the Michigan State University College of Nursing. “It’s not seen every day, so we think it’s gone. But we still have to understand that they exist, and we should work to eliminate or, at least, decrease some of these disparities.”

Increasingly, nurses and advanced practice registered nurses are receiving the experience and education they need in their nursing programs to address disparities in healthcare and to, thereby, provide this type of holistic care. But there is still a long way to go.

MSU nurse practitioner student Trevor Gabel-Baird, who identifies as a queer man, has experienced a lack of empathy in healthcare and wants to create positive change for all.

“I’ve felt judged for who I am as a person, I wanted to eliminate those barriers that prevent people from being seen, and that stops them from going to their physicians or nurse practitioners,” explains Gabel-Baird.

nurse-serving-underrepresented-communities

MSU nurse practitioner student Trevor Gabel-Baird has experienced a lack of empathy in healthcare and wants to create positive change for all

One instance Gabel-Baird could recall was with a charge nurse in a prior role, who misgendered a transgender patient who had ended up in the intensive care unit after they made an attempt on their life.

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“It was very off-putting to me to witness my peer and someone I’m supposed to look up to, especially as a brand-new nurse, putting the patient at risk, and that’s what drove me to apply for the nurse practitioner program,” Gabel-Baird says. “I felt healthcare needs more people that can speak to the lived experiences of the LGBTQIA community.”

In the LGBTQIA+ community, more than one in six adults have reported they avoid seeking healthcare due to anticipated discrimination. More than 20 percent of transgender adults reported discrimination in healthcare according to the National Library of Medicine.

Nurses Gaining Access to Varied experiences, Curriculum

“To be a nurse practitioner requires a stronger compassionate trait,” says Dr. Kara Schrader, MSU’s Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program Director. “Nurse practitioners tend to work with marginalized populations, many of which have difficulty with healthcare access. Nurses need to be empathic when it comes to the care we provide.”

Schrader said it is important to identify these disparities early in a nurse’s career. One way to do that is by ensuring students have access to varied experiences and a comprehensive curriculum.

The end game, she said, is that nursing colleges produce students who are prepared for and representative of the communities they serve, whether as a nurse, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, or nurse scientists.

Students like Gabel-Baird and Richardson-Aubrey, are putting that type of education to work.

“We’re able to identify the contributing factors of the medical condition to help the patient be well entirely,” Richardson-Aubrey says. “We’re not just treating them with medicine but treating the other aspects that play into the medical condition.”

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Learn more about graduate programs at the MSU College of Nursing.

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