The Role of LGBTQ+ Student Organizations in Nursing Schools: Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Adam Hanson, RN, BSN | Updated/Verified: May 14, 2024

Nursing students are expected to follow a code of ethics set by the ANA, which includes providing appropriate care to LGBTQ+ patients (ANA Ethics Advisory Board, 2018).

However, issues like implicit bias, religious beliefs, and discrimination can interfere despite these guidelines. A study by Carabez et al. (2015) revealed that 80% of nursing students reported they received no specific LGBTQ+ training during their college education. Without this focus, students may not fully understand or meet the unique needs of LGBTQ+ patients.

Nursing students need training to deliver culturally competent care, but the current curricula often fall short. Typically, LGBTQ+ topics are confined to disease-related issues, overlooking broader aspects of patient-centered health promotion (Lim, Brown, & Kim, 2014).

To bridge this gap, student organizations focused on advocating for gender diversity and the barriers faced by the LGBTQ+ community can help ensure that students are equipped to provide culturally competent care.

The Role of Student Organizations in Fostering a Supportive Educational Environment

When nurses reflect on their patients’ demographic traits, they can provide culturally competent care that reduces health disparities and improves outcomes.

Diversity in nursing education means enrolling students from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and cultural experiences. This inclusivity enhances students’ understanding of different life experiences and health conditions, which is vital for developing empathy and effectiveness in healthcare providers.

Student organizations in nursing schools enhance the educational experience by serving as a bridge between students and faculty, advocating for student needs, and improving communication. These organizations are great for allowing students to lead and network, which builds vital skills like teamwork and communication.

Moreover, student groups actively work to include everyone. They organize discussion forums, mentorship programs, and support networks that help students feel connected and supported throughout their learning journey.

Specific Focus on LGBTQ+ Student Organizations in Nursing Schools

LGBTQ+ student organizations in nursing schools are crucial in promoting inclusivity and understanding. These groups advocate for LGBTQ+ friendly policies, educate on LGBTQ+ health issues, and create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students and allies.

Their presence can profoundly influence the school’s culture by highlighting the unique health challenges LGBTQ+ individuals face and pushing for inclusive changes in the curriculum. This preparation ensures that future nurses can adequately serve diverse populations.

Additionally, LGBTQ+ organizations combat the isolation and discrimination that LGBTQ+ students might encounter in educational and professional settings.

Through their efforts, LGBTQ+ student organizations significantly contribute to the broader goals of diversity and inclusion within nursing schools, leading to a more compassionate, understanding, and adequate healthcare workforce.

Current State of LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Nursing Schools

Student organizations in nursing schools have evolved significantly over the years, adapting to changes in the healthcare landscape and the needs of their members.

Initially, these organizations primarily focused on professional development and networking opportunities. As diversity and inclusion became more recognized, these organizations began to address broader social issues, including health disparities and equitable care.

Today, many nursing student organizations actively incorporate diversity initiatives, educating their members about cultural competence and advocating for inclusive healthcare practices.

Challenges Faced by LGBTQ+ Students in Nursing Programs Historically

LGBTQ+ students in nursing programs have encountered significant obstacles that have influenced both their education and career paths. These challenges have evolved, yet the need for ongoing support remains critical. Key issues have included:

  • Overt Discrimination and Subtle Biases: LGBTQ+ students have faced both clear and indirect forms of discrimination that affected their educational and professional experiences.
  • Lack of Representation: There has often been a significant lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the curriculum and among faculty, leaving students without role models or mentors who understand their unique challenges.
  • Absence of Protective Policies: Historically, many nursing programs lacked specific protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, exposing students to prejudicial treatment.
  • Social Stigma: Especially in earlier decades, the prevalent social stigma forced many LGBTQ+ nursing students to hide their identities, which led to isolation and compounded mental health challenges.

While more inclusive policies and the advent of supportive student organizations have improved conditions, these historical challenges underline the continuing need for advocacy to ensure a supportive learning environment for all nursing students.

Objectives of LGBTQ+ Student Organizations

In the 2021 study by the University of North Dakota titled "Addressing LGBTQ Student Population Diversity In Nursing Education," it is suggested that collaboration with local and national organizations can ensure that the education offered is culturally appropriate.

When nursing faculty are trained in LGBTQ+ health issues, they gain confidence in teaching this content, which helps LGBTQ+ students feel welcomed in the nursing profession and supported by their academic institutions.

LGBTQ+ student organizations in nursing schools concentrate on several key objectives to improve both the educational environment and the broader healthcare field:

Advocacy and Awareness

Nurses, often the first point of contact, need the tools to offer inclusive care. Educating nursing students is crucial for narrowing this gap and positively impacting the health outcomes of patients, families, and the broader society.

Student organizations work diligently to educate the nursing community about the unique health needs and disparities experienced by LGBTQ+ individuals. Efforts focus on incorporating subjects such as mental health, preventative care, and the impacts of discrimination into the nursing curriculum.

Moreover, student organizations champion the adoption of inclusive policies and practices within nursing schools and healthcare facilities, including pushing for non-discrimination policies, using inclusive language, and the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to receive competent and unbiased care. Their efforts reach beyond the campus, impacting broader healthcare policies to ensure that inclusivity is not only taught but actively practiced.

Support and Resources

LGBTQ+ student organizations play a vital role in offering support networks for their members and establishing safe spaces where students can openly discuss their experiences. These networks are crucial for reducing feelings of isolation and providing emotional and social support, essential for personal well-being and academic success.

These groups foster a sense of community and support through regular meetings, social events, and peer mentoring. Aware of the unique pressures LGBTQ+ students face, these organizations provide specialized resources tailored to their needs. They facilitate access to mental health resources, counseling, and workshops on emotional well-being.

Education and Training

These organizations host workshops and seminars that are open to all students and faculty members to promote a broader understanding of LGBTQ+ issues. These educational events can cover various topics, from the basics of LGBTQ+ terminology to complex discussions about health disparities and cultural competency. The goal is to educate the entire nursing community, fostering an inclusive atmosphere that benefits everyone.

By focusing on inclusivity and sensitivity, these organizations help ensure that future healthcare providers are prepared to deliver compassionate and skilled care to every patient, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Benefits of LGBTQ+ Student Organizations

LGBTQ+ student organizations are key to making nursing schools better places to learn. They help by creating a welcoming environment, supporting personal growth, and preparing students for successful careers in diverse nursing and healthcare settings.

Let's look at the many ways these organizations improve schooling experiences, help build supportive communities, and prepare students for future healthcare jobs.

Improved Academic Performance

LGBTQ+ student organizations play a pivotal role in their members’ academic success by fostering an environment of acceptance and understanding. Student organizations often provide academic resources such as tutoring and study groups tailored to the unique needs of LGBTQ+ students.

Moreover, the sense of belonging and emotional support these organizations provide can alleviate stress and anxiety, enabling students to focus better and achieve higher academic performance.

Greater Retention Rates

Nursing schools with active LGBTQ+ student organizations frequently see higher retention rates among their LGBTQ+ students.

The presence of these organizations helps mitigate the feelings of isolation that some LGBTQ+ students might experience in a less inclusive environment. By ensuring that these students do not feel alienated, the organizations play a crucial role in encouraging them to continue their education and complete their degrees.

Peer Support Networks

LGBTQ+ student organizations play a pivotal role in forming peer support networks, which serve as dynamic spaces for students to connect over shared experiences, tackle common challenges, and exchange support.

Regular meetings, vibrant social gatherings, and active online forums unite members. Such supportive frameworks bolster emotional resilience and offer pragmatic guidance, enriching the educational paths for all participants.

Safe Spaces for Personal Growth

LGBTQ+ organizations actively work to establish safe spaces on campus where students can express their identities without fear of judgment or discrimination.

Vital for personal development, such spaces allow students to explore and affirm their identities in a supportive setting. Growth and confidence fostered in safe spaces often translate into more assertive, more resilient individuals.

Cultivating Cultural Competency

An integral part of nursing education is preparing students to provide culturally competent care to diverse populations. LGBTQ+ student organizations contribute significantly to this aspect of professional readiness by hosting workshops, seminars, and panel discussions that educate future nurses about the specific health needs and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community. This education is crucial for developing empathetic practitioners who can serve all patients effectively.

Preparing Students for Diverse Work Environments

By promoting inclusivity and diversity, LGBTQ+ student organizations equip their members for the diverse realities of modern healthcare environments.

Active participants in these organizations often develop critical interpersonal skills needed to navigate the complexities of diverse workplace dynamics. Such preparation is invaluable, enabling future nurses to function effectively as part of a multidisciplinary team and deliver top-notch care to a broad patient base.

In nursing schools, LGBTQ+ student organizations enhance the immediate experiences of their members and pave the way for more inclusive and effective healthcare practices in the future.

Directory of LGBTQ+ Nursing and Healthcare Organizations

Here is a list of LGBTQ+ nursing and healthcare organizations connecting with nursing school student groups.

BTAC is an ambassador for Black transgender equality, advocating for health, housing, and employment equality. They aim to overcome violence and injustice through the power, value, and love of all people.

With a 30-year history, GLMA fights for equality in LGBTQ+ healthcare through advocacy and education, collaborating with civil rights and health organizations.

The Fenway Institute addresses the healthcare needs of sexual and gender minorities and people affected by HIV through policy research, health education programming, and access to life-prolonging benefits.

Founded in 1979, NALGAP addresses LGBTQ+ alcohol and addiction issues, providing education, advocacy, and opportunities for networking.

LGBT HealthLink is a community-driven national network of healthcare professionals advocating for reducing health disparities.

Founded in 1973, PFLAG is the first and largest organization dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families


Given the important role of LGBTQ+ student organizations, nursing schools, and the healthcare community need to keep supporting and valuing these groups. Schools should ensure these organizations have steady funding and administrative backing and that their activities are part of the school’s overall goals.

It's also important to keep promoting these groups to all students and faculty to build a more welcoming community. Valuing LGBTQ+ student organizations helps not just LGBTQ+ students but all students, making for a more understanding, aware, and skilled nursing workforce. Let’s support these important groups and maintain our commitment to diversity and inclusion in healthcare education.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can joining an LGBTQ+ student organization impact a student's future career in nursing?

Yes, joining an LGBTQ+ student organization can positively impact a student’s nursing career. It helps develop critical interpersonal skills and enhances understanding of diverse patient needs, essential for effective patient care.

How do LGBTQ+ student organizations work with nursing school administrations?

LGBTQ+ student organizations work closely with nursing school administrations to shape policies and educational programs. They push for including LGBTQ+ health topics in the curriculum and strive to establish policies that create a safe and welcoming environment for all students. This collaboration ensures that educational goals meet the diverse needs of the student body.

How can allies participate in LGBTQ+ student organizations?

Allies are encouraged to join LGBTQ+ student organizations to show support and learn more about the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ peers. Participation can include attending meetings, helping organize events, and advocating for inclusive policies alongside LGBTQ+ members. Ally’s involvement is crucial in fostering an inclusive environment that benefits everyone in the academic community.

Can LGBTQ+ student organizations influence hospital policies after students graduate?

While direct influence may vary, the advocacy and training provided by LGBTQ+ student organizations equip graduates with the knowledge and skills to advocate for inclusive policies in their professional roles. Alumni often carry forward the values and practices learned, influencing the cultures and policies of their workplaces.

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