A high-vis uniform, but invisible in the curriculum: LGBT inclusivity in the paramedic curriculum

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One of the goals of entry to profession healthcare education is ensuring that graduates from the respective professional qualification are able to provide health care to a wide range of patient populations, and to be able to do this is a culturally safe manner. To achieve this goal, it is imperative that the learning environment be inclusive and accepting of students who may belong to visible and non-visible minorities, thus ensuring the best chance of success for these students, whilst also modelling inclusivity for all members of society.
A survey of undergraduate paramedic students at CSU, and subsequently five other Australian universities offering paramedicine at the undergraduate level, found that 26.6% of the respondents had witnessed heterosexism, with 21.1% of respondents indicating that they had been exposed to heterosexism in their learning environment. In response to a question about the source of the heterosexism that they had experienced, 15.6% of respondents reported that paramedic students in their own year were the source of the heterosexism, whilst 7.4% reported the source as being paramedic students in other years. Interestingly, 3.5% of respondents reported academic staff were the source of heterosexism, and 2.2% reported the source was paramedic tutors.
When asked how useful they felt additional training/education around LGBTQIA+ issues would be in creating an inclusive environment, 55% of respondents indicated this would be quite, or very useful. The promotion and use of LGBTQIA+ friendly language was considered quite or very useful by 55.4% of respondents, suggesting that there is a desire for additional training/education around LGBTQIA+ issues and appropriate language. There is an overwhelming interest from respondents (69.5%) to receive education, training or education in relation to LGBTQIA+ issues. The majority of respondents would like to receive this through workshops or presentations, suggesting that there is a need for academics in the health disciplines to consider these strategies to improve inclusivity in the curriculum.
A number of semi-structured interviews were facilitated with a sample of survey respondents in order to explore the participants perceptions of heteronormativity in the paramedic curriculum and their learning environment. A consistent theme that emerged from the analysis of the interviews was a sense of ‘invisibility’ in the curriculum. In some instances there appeared to be an ignorance to the existence of LGBTQI patients and this is no doubt further perpetuated by the lack of exposure to these patients in simulations. In some cases there was an awareness of LGBTQI issues, however this tended to be expressed moreso by participants who identified as a member of the LGBTQI community. There was also a degree of conscious avoidance, a form of wilful blindness, to perhaps avoid having to address their own bias towards LGBTQIA+ patients.
Our research suggests that there is a need to integrate LGBTQI patients into the simulated clinical setting to not only normalize the experience of providing clinical care to members of the LGBTQI community, but to also demonstrate to paramedic students who identify as LGBTQI that they are a valued member of the student community. Importantly, inclusion of LGBTQI concepts into the curriculum may also assist those students who are questioning their own identity and sexual orientation, but who are not ‘out’, to feel included in the curriculum and to feel accepted as a member of the student body.

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Online presentationCSEdX Academic Program
Abbreviated titleBuilding stronger networks and learning communities
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