Nursing grad puts LGBTQ+ patient care policy into practice

Envisioning an American healthcare system that welcomes its LGBTQ+ patients with the dignity and respect that should be accorded to all patients, Jonathan Gurrola (Nursing, ’18; MA, Psychology, ’19) has long worked to make that dream come true .

“Most hospitals don’t have a real in-house source on how to provide care for LGBTQ+ patients, and there are historical fears – the AIDS epidemic, for example – that make LGBTQ+ people not feel safe in a hospital,” he said. “Patients are afraid of being abused or being referred to by a dead name, and many patients don’t even know that their partners can visit them.”

After decades of discriminatory treatment, lack of access to care and awkward and disrespectful interactions with doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, change is long overdue, Gurrola said, adding that he It is essential to establish policy and procedures that guarantee at least a basic level of inclusive care.

He does what he can to move the needle. An advanced clinician at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, he has spent countless hours working with healthcare leaders in recent years to establish the first LGBTQ+, non-binary, gender-non-conforming patient care guidelines to ensure all patients the standard of care they deserve.

In return, the seven Sharp Healthcare hospitals received a perfect score of 100 from the 2022 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), an LGBTQ+ benchmarking tool developed by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, for their policies. related to equity and inclusion of LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and staff. But perhaps more importantly, Gurrola said, patient care is really changing as a result.

“We follow the policy and procedure of how our hospital does everything — how long we have to keep food in the fridge, how we have to remove an IV,” Gurrola said. “Now, if you’re new and have never interacted with a transgender patient, you can type that into a search bar and find out how to provide respectful care at the most basic level.”

His evolution as an equity advocating leader began at Chico State. As a first-generation, historically underrepresented student, he knew early on that he wanted to study nursing.

“I asked myself, what is one of the most stable jobs in the world? I saw the struggles of my family and felt learning could change my life,” Gurrola said. “I had this opportunity to go to Chico State to study and be mentored by some amazing teachers, so I treated it with great value and was able to really take what I learned and race with it. ”

A community project assignment during his nursing program first informed his concerns about bias, oversights, and missteps in LGBTQ+ health care and motivated him to do something about it. Gurrola and another student decided to design a LGBTQ+ training course for Chico State nursing students and faculty, which has grown to include participation from Enloe Medical Center nurses. The training advised participants on everything from defining sexual orientation and gender identity to LGBTQ+ represents patient rights and the trauma of gender abuse.

“Chico State’s nursing program is really community-focused, and my passion for health helped me see what I needed,” Gurrola said.

When hired at Sharp Medical Center, Gurrola approached his residence charge nurse and offered to do the same staff training, and before he knew it, he was offering training sessions throughout the facility. hospital. These trainings have since been converted into a learning module that has been shared system-wide within Sharp Healthcare.

Taking what he learned and implemented at Chico State, Gurrola helped coordinate a patient rights policy for LGBTQ+ patients at Sharp Medical Center in San Diego / Photo courtesy of Jonathan Gurrola

One of the big takeaways from the training is to never assume, said Gurrola, adding that while nurses often use first impressions with patients to trigger communication, it’s important to erase those preconceptions and to let the patient lead.

While pleased with the progress made so far, he says his job is not done. What began as a struggle on the ground for fairness in LGBTQ+ patient care has become a national movement, and he hopes to further the cause by expanding the policies and practices he helped establish throughout the San Diego area.

“We’re actively looking for more opportunities to teach and educate, because when you have a policy, it raises awareness, and then all of a sudden people start asking, ‘How can I interact in my department with enrollment? ? How can I interact in the pre-surgical department? How can I be respectful? Said Gurrola.

After watching his growth in Chico State’s nursing program for several years, Associate Professor Holly Kralj isn’t surprised at what Gurrola has accomplished. Standing out in his classes as articulate and intelligent, it was clear he would go on to do good things in the world, she said.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, our healthcare workers are overwhelmed and what I see around me is nobody doing anything more – we’re all trying to hold on,” he said. she stated. “I think it’s quite remarkable that despite all of this, Jonathan continues to push things forward and push the dial in terms of providing evidence-based practice and better care.”

His efforts do not go unnoticed. In 2020, he received the Center of Recognized Excellence (CORE) award for his service and commitment to Sharp Healthcare, and he was recently nominated for the 2022 “Excellence in Nursing” award for Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus and “Nursing of the ‘year’ at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

“I’m very proud of the work I’ve done, especially as an LGBTQ+ person,” Gurrola said. “My voice has value within the healthcare system, and I create the change I want to see. »

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