In the United States, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ (or sexual and gender minorities) have been identified by the National Institutes of Health as a population that experiences health disparities. However, many human services and healthcare providers lack the knowledge and skills necessary to provide effective care to the LGBTQ+ community. The purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of students, faculty, and staff regarding their education, level of knowledge, and attitudes towards working with people who identify as LGBTQ+ in eight programs within a college of health and human services (CHHS).
A 28-item instrument was created using questions from three existing instruments which measured knowledge, attitudes, comfort, and formal training on LGBTQ+ health. With permission from the respective authors, some of these questions were adapted for this research. Data were collected via an anonymous electronic survey using Qualtrics software. Potential participants were all staff and faculty in the CHHS, as well as all students who had declared a major in a CHHS program or were enrolled in a CHHS graduate program (n=2,302).
Three hundred and thirty-six people completed the survey (response rate=14.59%). The response rate by participant role was 12.5% for students (n=233), 19.5% for faculty (n=72), and 43% (n=31) for staff. Most of the student participants were undergraduates, nursing and social work majors, and did not identify as LGBTQ+. Data analysis included descriptive and inferential statistics of the sample and were conducted using IBM SPSS.
The majority of the participants from all three roles (81.4-100%) correctly answered questions regarding knowledge of LGBTQ+ populations. Almost all of the participants (99.7%) indicated that healthcare providers have the duty to provide healthcare for LGBTQ+ persons. Despite this knowledge and sense of duty, 21.7% of the participants expressed greater discomfort in discussing sexual health with LGBTQ+ patients compared to patients without this identity. Participants in the nursing school (72.8%, n=67, p<0.05) were more likely than participants from social work (60.2%, n=53) or the other health and human services departments (42.9%, n=21) to agree with the statement “My school/program/department has incorporated LGBTQ+ related content into a variety of courses/trainings.”
Conclusions and Implications:
This research suggests that although most participants in this CHHS have knowledge about LGBTQ+ populations and think they deserve care, over 20% have discomfort about discussing sexual health with these patients. Results indicate a need to provide additional training related to providing care for the LGBTQ+ population, particularly in social work. Given the social justice and advocacy orientation of social work practice, more students should identify that they are getting sufficient educational experiences related to the LGBTQ+ population.