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Heterosexual assumptions in verbal and non-verbal communication in nursing
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Caring Sciences.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Caring Sciences.
2006 (English)In: Journal of Advanced Nursing, ISSN 0309-2402, E-ISSN 1365-2648, Vol. 56, no 4, 373-381 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aim: This paper reports a study of what lesbian women and gay men had to say, as patients and as partners, about their experiences of nursing in hospital care, and what they regarded as important to communicate about homosexuality and nursing.

Background: The social life of heterosexual cultures is based on the assumption that all people are heterosexual, thereby making homosexuality socially invisible. Nurses may assume that all patients and significant others are heterosexual, and these heteronormative assumptions may lead to poor communication that affects nursing quality by leading nurses to ask the wrong questions and make incorrect judgements.

Method: A qualitative interview study was carried out in the spring of 2004. Seventeen women and 10 men ranging in age from 23 to 65 years from different parts of Sweden participated. They described 46 experiences as patients and 31 as partners.

Findings: Heteronormativity was communicated in waiting rooms, in patient documents and when registering for admission, and nursing staff sometimes showed perplexity when an informant deviated from this heteronormative assumption. Informants had often met nursing staff who showed fear of behaving incorrectly, which could lead to a sense of insecurity, thereby impeding further communication. As partners of gay patients, informants felt that they had to deal with heterosexual assumptions more than they did when they were patients, and the consequences were feelings of not being accepted as a 'true' relative, of exclusion and neglect. Almost all participants offered recommendations about how nursing staff could facilitate communication.

Conclusions: Heterosexual norms communicated unconsciously by nursing staff contribute to ambivalent attitudes and feelings of insecurity that prevent communication and easily lead to misconceptions. Educational and management interventions, as well as increased communication, could make gay people more visible and thereby encourage openness and awareness by hospital staff of the norms that they communicate through their language and behaviour.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 56, no 4, 373-381 p.
Keyword [en]
communication, empirical research report, gay men, heteronormativity, lesbian women, nursing, partners, patients
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-92819DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2006.04018.xISI: 000241344700004PubMedID: 17042817OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-92819DiVA: diva2:166120
Available from: 2005-04-15 Created: 2005-04-15 Last updated: 2011-05-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Heteronormativity in a Nursing Context: Attitudes toward Homosexuality and Experiences of Lesbians and Gay Men
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Heteronormativity in a Nursing Context: Attitudes toward Homosexuality and Experiences of Lesbians and Gay Men
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The general aim of the project was to describe the situation of lesbians and gay men in a nursing environment by studying the attitudes of nursing staff and students, and the experiences of gay nursing staff in their work environment and of gay patients and partners in their encounters with nursing. The study for papers I and II had a descriptive, comparative design. Nurses, assistant nurses, and nursing students completed the Attitudes Toward Homosexuality Scale (ATHS), the Causes of Homosexuality Questionnaire (CHQ), and the Affect Adjective Checklist (AAC), along with the Nursing Behaviour Questionnaire (NBQ). In general, the participating nursing staff and students expressed positive attitudes, though some subjects reported very negative attitudes toward gay people. The participants also expressed a full spectrum of emotions from delight to anger. The studies for papers III and IV had a descriptive, explorative design. Here, the data collection was performed by semi-structured interviews. The informants were gay nursing staff, gay patients and partners of patients. The gay personnel reported fear and concern about heterosexuals' reactions when these informants 'come out', and were constantly assesing the risk being open about their sexual orientation among their workmates. Nearly all patients and partners described several situations where heteronormative assumptions were communicated by the nursing staff. Almost all informants offered recommendations for nursing staff to facilitate communication. According to the presented findings, probably only a small minority in Swedish nursing have negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. However, the informants told of heteronormative language and behaviour in nursing contexts that were percieved as insensitive, insulting and humaliating. Nursing staff need to learn how to communicate in a more natural way and to be aware of the norms they communicate through the language and behaviour they use.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2005. 62 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 1
Keyword
Caring sciences, lesbians and gay men, homosexual, social norms, heteronormativity, intergroup relation, attitude, communication, nursing, Vårdvetenskap
National Category
Nursing
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-5730 (URN)91-554-6199-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-05-10, Robergsalen, Uppsala akademiska sjukhus ing.40, Uppsala, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2005-04-15 Created: 2005-04-15 Last updated: 2011-05-19Bibliographically approved

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Röndahl, GerdCarlsson, Marianne

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