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Clinicians May Harbor Biases About Sexual Orientation

Findings show need for sensitivity training, expert suggests

FRIDAY, July 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Clinicians may be biased when it comes to the sexual orientation of patients, new research suggests. The study was published online July 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers surveyed more than 200,000 health care providers in the United States about their attitudes towards heterosexual, gay, and lesbian people between 2006 and 2012.

Heterosexual health care providers tended to have moderate to strong preferences for straight people over lesbian and gay people. Conversely, gay and lesbian health care providers favored gay and lesbian people over straight people, the survey showed. Among the different types of health care workers surveyed, mental health professionals seemed to have the least bias for straight people over lesbian and gay people. On the other hand, nurses had the strongest bias for straight people over lesbian and gay people, the researchers said.

The take-home message, according to lead researcher Janice Sabin, Ph.D., M.S.W., of the University of Washington in Seattle, is that "training for health care providers about treating sexual minority patients is an area in great need of attention." In a university news release, Sabin added: "We want all providers to be proficient in treating diverse populations, including the LGBT population."

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