First, I must give my apologies for being absent while I have been on a road of both professional and personal self-discovery. I have received numerous emails and text messages inquiring as to my next post. It means so much to me that people are actually interested in reading what I have to say! Sometimes my ideas come in spurts, per se…..It’s like rapid fire in my head…..Other times, not so much. Lately it has been the latter of the two.
Having said that, an experience a few days ago has had me on edge and as I sit here and try to gather my thoughts on this subject, I am discouraged. I must first preface this by saying that I was approached outside of my nursing role at a community function. And although I have very personal beliefs regarding this subject matter, it is, in fact, a subject that most find to be very sensitive and have very passionate views about. Although I find it highly unlikely that any one of my readers would do so, I ask that whomever expresses their personal viewpoints on this blog, which I invite you to do, please do so with respect. Every single one of us has the right to our feelings and I want that to be acknowledged and honored.
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and asked, “Do I truly practice, not only my profession, but my life, without prejudice?”
I was approached by an acquaintance of a mutual friend to ask my opinion regarding a medical experience while vacationing out of the United States. It was reported to me that a patient was refused medical treatment based on sexual orientation. (Bear in mine, this is “alleged”, as only one side of the story is being told via a third-party representative and I was not privy to details, nor did I inquire.) This was disclosed during what we refer to as the “Triage” process when it a was reported that the person seeking medical treatment was Homosexual. Part of the Triage process is obtaining a medical history. It was during this part of the assessment that the patient reported why medical treatment was being sought, and thus, willingly gave their sexual orientation. As a nurse, I will say that more often than not, patients will offer more than the necessary information because they simply do not understand what specific information is deemed medically necessary in order to be properly treated, and what is not. Sexual orientation does not fall under this category.
Aside from the fact that this was in another country, with different civil rights laws, medical laws, codes of conduct and practice acts, the very basis of human interaction remains the same. All I could think about was how horrible it must have felt to be refused medical treatment based on ones personal lifestyle choices, or genetically pre-determined sexual orientation, depending on which side of the debate you may reside. And furthermore, shame on the medical professionals (and I use that term loosely) that refused to provide treatment! I stood there appalled. Completely lost for words…..which, to those that know me personally, this is NEVER an issue! I ALWAYS have an opinion, theory, comment, question or concern. After expressing my complete shock, I left that conversation feeling deeply disturbed.
That evening I sat journaling before bed, as I do nearly every night, my words were jumbled as my hand swiftly moved in a futile, scattered attempt to record my minds words, trying desperately to keep up. (Remember that “rapid fire” thing I was talking about…..) Words like “hate”, “solitude”, “fear”, “rejection” and “alone”, were only a few of the words that I can recall. I have lived a fairly “normal” life. I am a caucasian female, divorce’ and mother of three children. I am a working class woman, residing in a working class neighborhood. I deal with the normal day-to-day “working class” struggles that every other American faces these days. I have had my fair share of hardships and challenges, but I have never come face to face with being hated, rejected and dismissed because of who I choose to engage in a relationship with. Much less denied what is rightfully mine to attain (In the U.S. anyway). I felt ashamed…..Ashamed that I may have been one of those people who “go through the motions” with blinders on. Unaware that these things still exist among us. Women still find themselves filled with inadequacies because having the same rights as men is no longer good enough for us…..we feel we must exceed that. Racial minorities still feel the need to rally in protest because having a law that says we are “equal”, doesn’t necessarily mean they are treated as such and they want to be heard. Who can blame a person for wanting to be heard? A “drug seeker” did not just wake up and choose to be a drug seeker…..a child who cuts themselves didn’t wake up one day and ask to be labeled and ridiculed for the only way they know how to deal with enormous pain……yet society outcasts them. And women who prefer to love women and men who prefer to love men, often do so while living in a constant fear that their love isn’t “enough” to be accepted and acknowledged by society simply because someone says it isn’t “okay”.
This blog post is not to spark a personal, religious or political debate. It is, however, to bring light to the fact that medical prejudice stills exists among us because of our PERSONAL beliefs and it is WRONG! As a medical professional, I took an oath to take care of the patient presented to me with unbiased professionalism. It is disturbing to me that one may delay or avoid seeking medical treatment for fear of mistreatment or rejection. Don’t we have enough of that outside of the medical community? Isn’t simply living in our ever-changing economy difficult enough? I challenge every person who reads this blog to take a moment and reflect upon your inner most being. Ask yourself, “Do I practice with prejudice?” If you are honest, then every single one of us should answer with “yes”, as we have done this at one time or another in our career. We have judged someone based on factors unrelated to medical care….We have predetermined that the chronic back pain is just “drug seeking”….That the teenage girl who attempted suicide is simply “attention seeking”…..That the 30-something year old man on disability is “lazy” and doesn’t want to work……That the battered woman down the hall is “asking for it” because she keeps going back to her abuser….That the typical hospital “run of the mill” ER patient simply wants a “free ride” when they report not having sufficient funds to pay for treatment.
My answer is “Yes”.
In the words of one of the most inspirational spirits of unequivocal equality…..This is my challenge to all of my medical community…..
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”