Are your arms wide open? (by guest blogger Lynne Brophy)
Recently my minister gave a very moving sermon which asked a question relevant to nursing: “Are your arms wide open?” When Gini asked this question she meant to ask if our arms were wide open either figuratively or literally to accept everyone with love. As she spoke about this, I realized my new friend at church, Suzy was sitting at the back of the church all alone and did so every week. Had someone opened their arms to her?
Suzy represents a minority with some of the worst health disparities in our society today. The minority no one wants to talk about. In fact, she is in double jeopardy because she belongs to two groups who often have trouble accessing care. My new friend Suzy is an African American transgender woman.
In a recent issue devoted to LGBTQ+ care in Seminars in Oncology Nursing, a portion of which was written by our very own James Nurse Researcher, Carl Brown, Matthews, Breen and Kittiteerasack (2018) explain that the disparities in cancer related health outcomes need to be studied. The authors state that “the causes of these disparities are complex and likely influenced by the same sets of interrelated social, economic, and environmental factors that drive cancer disparity rates among other underserved populations” (p. 13). To share some horrifying statistics, the rates of poverty and homelessness among transgender Americans when compared with their cisgender counterparts are higher…29% of LGB adults reported food insecurity and use of food stamps especially if the reporting person was of color. Sobering.
Are our arms wide open to everyone at The James? I think the conversation has begun. What will you do to open your arms to this population in need? Why not start with educating yourself? How about a journal club using an article or two from the February 2018 issue of Seminars in Oncology Nursing? I think it will open your eyes.
This past Sunday, I invited Suzy to sit with my friend Lisa, her children (three teenage boys) and I in church each Sunday. She thanked me, explained that she was “used to being alone” and would think about it. Later, she came over and whispered to me “It’s really about Lisa’s boys. I don’t want to make them uncomfortable”.
Are we making our patients feel comfortable? Are our arms wide open?
Matthews, A.K., Breen, E. & Kittiteerasack, P. (2018). Social determinants of LGBT health inequities. Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 34, 1, 12-20.
I want to help build a world where people aren’t afraid to make someone feel a little uncomfortable with differences. This is nursing at it’s most holistic and global. We tend to the wounded and shy and fearful as well as to encourage others to question the illusion of “sameness.” We are all different, if we are willing to peel back our masks. Let’s dare to open our arms to the new.