The Lived Experience of Trans Nursing Students

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It is widely accepted that gender diversification of the nursing workforce will positively influence healthcare access and outcomes. Gender diversification of the nursing workforce is desired to enhance culturally congruent care, including gender-affirming care of trans persons. Trans persons experience discrimination in academic and employment settings, but trans persons’ experiences during pursuit of a career in nursing have not been disseminated. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of trans students in U.S. prelicensure nursing programs. A phenomenological approach was used. Analysis of individual interviews with four participants representing baccalaureate programs from across the United States resulted in the emergence of six themes: (a) language is a barometer for respect and safety, (b) traversing deep-rooted assumptions about gender and nursing, (c) the burden of altruism as default educators and advocates, (d) navigating transition and coming out, (e) pride in nursing, and (f) personal gender experiences enhanced nursing care. The burden of altruism as default educators and advocates resulted from three subthemes: (a) faculty were unprepared to teach trans students and to teach trans health concepts and, (b) the formal curricula on trans health were inadequate, cisnormative, and pathologizing, and (c) transinvisibility on campus. Illuminating experiences of nursing students who identify as trans, a historically marginalized and stigmatized sector of the population, holds the power to transform future experiences for trans students. Study findings inform gatekeepers of the nursing profession about systems and interactions with potential to influence trans students’ experiences. The study findings lead to short-term and long-term recommendations for gatekeepers to mitigate minority stress of trans nursing students, including enhancing integration of trans health concepts in formal curricula and supporting faculty to develop knowledge of trans students and trans health. Finally, this study implores the nursing profession at-large to consider the mutual value in actively welcoming gender diverse individuals into the profession, benefitting trans persons as future nurses and benefitting future recipients of their care.
Health education, Gender studies, Nursing, Cultural competence, Gender identity, Minority stress, Nursing education, Nursing students, Transgender persons