This past August, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality ( previously known as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association ) formed the organization's first-ever sectorthe GLMA Nursing Section. It was created to be a professional home for LGBT nurses and provide a focal point for advocacy on LGBT nursing issues.
Founded in 1981 by gay and lesbian physicians ( as the American Association of Physicians for Human Rights ) in response to the AIDS crisis, GLMA is the world's largest and oldest association of LGBT healthcare professionals.
"The mission of GLMA is to ensure equality in healthcare for LGBT individuals and healthcare providers. We achieve our mission through four areas of work: patient education and referrals, professional education, policy and advocacy and the promotion of research," said GLMA Executive Director Hector Vargas. "Over the past 30-plus years, GLMA's mission has expanded beyond just HIV/AIDS to include the broad array of health disparities the LGBT community faces. Additionally, GLMA's membership has expanded beyond just physicians to include nurses, social workers, counselors, dentists and other health professionals."
The genesis of the GLMA Nursing Section began in 2013 at the GLMA LGBT Nursing Summit. "The first-of-its-kind summit was held to create a plan to increase LGBT health content in nursing schools and to address the homophobia many nurses experience within the nursing profession, among other goals," said Mary Foley, RN, chair of the GLMA Nursing Section and past president of the American Nurses Association. "It was from that summit that the idea for a formal entity within GLMA developed. To our knowledge, this is the first-ever 'professional home' for LGBT nurses."
Among the members of the group of nurses and allies who worked on the proposal for the Nursing Section were: Laura Hein, PhD, RN, a GLMA board member and chair of the board's External Affairs Committee; Ed Craft, DrPH, MEd, LCPC, a GLMA board member and vice president for External Affairs; Sarah Fogel, PhD, RN, a GLMA board member and vice-president for the Lesbian Health Fund and Peggy Chinn, RN, PhD, GLMA achievement award recipient.
As chair of the GLMA Nursing Section, Foley coordinates with her team of leaders and provides support to the work of the Nursing Section's five workgroups: Clinical Practice, Policy, Education, Research and Organizational Climate.
"With over 3 million nurses in the United States, nurses touch the lives of the vast majority of Americans, including LGBT Americans," said Foley. "It's critical that these nurses learn how to care for LGBT individuals and families. The GLMA Nursing Section will provide a focal point for advocacy and significantly contribute to advancing LGBT health equality."
Membership in the GLMA Nursing Section is open to any GLMA member and thus far about 50 nurses and allies have pledged to join the Nursing Section and pay section dues.
"This is an exciting step in GLMA's growth. We recognized that by providing a forum for organizing and action within GLMA, specific groups of members can further contribute to advancing LGBT health equality," said GLMA President Henry Ng, MD, MPH. "Nowhere is this more true than with nurses, and GLMA is proud to serve as the primary professional home for LGBT nurses and their allies."
"The GLMA membership has been very supportive of the efforts to create a nursing section and support LGBT nurses as a way to achieve our overall mission of LGBT health equality," said Vargas.
"We've heard nothing but positive reactions from our colleagues in the nursing profession and with nursing organizations," said Foley." Our goal is to work with our colleagues in medical and nursing organizations to address LGBT health concerns and ensure that all providers have the tools they need to care for LGBT patients."
GLMA's other initiatives include a free online provider directory ( www.glma.org/referrals ). This allows patients to search for LGBT-friendly healthcare providers in their area. Vargas noted that over 50 healthcare providers listed in the provider directory are located in Chicago. For the past 20 years, GLMA has also provided over $800,000 in grants for research studies focused on the health needs of lesbians and other sexual minority women through its Lesbian Health Fund. The organization also holds an annual conference that draws over 400 LGBT and ally healthcare providers together to learn the latest in LGBT health.
As for the future of the organization, Vargas said "GLMA is committed to improving the health and well-being of the LGBT community. We will continue our efforts to advance education and policy to ensure LGBT people receive the healthcare they need and deserve."
See www.glma.org for more information .