Saffren Colbourne, a ULethbridge Bachelor of Nursing student, works hard to support diversity in nursing and address structural problems LGBTQ2S+ that students face in healthcare.
As a gay man in nursing, I am often expected to either "just become a doctor" or perform heavy-lifting and laborious nursing work in the healthcare setting. It made it difficult to speak up against these stereotypes because I found that I sat somewhere in-between this scale and I was afraid of others' opinions of me. Even while working in the hospital, it is almost a daily occurrence that I find someone making discriminatory remarks based on my sexual orientation.
Tell us about your involvement with the University of Lethbridge's “Diversity in Nursing” committee.
The "Diversity in Nursing" committee was created at the University of Lethbridge in September 2021. Since this is the first committee of its kind at ULethbridge, we decided to focus on establishing our mission, and values, and building connections to effectuate change.
My job as committee chair was to evaluate the current state of LGBTQ2S+ disparities (specific to the nursing student population), create polls and social media pages for the group, and provide reach-out support for LGBTQ2S+-identifying people. Together we discovered that LGBTQ2S+ nursing students are faced with structural and horizontal violence in healthcare. We brought our concerns to the nursing faculty and spoke with multiple stakeholders on how to break the glass ceiling and have our voices heard at an executive level.
What are the opportunities for growth you see with regards to LGBTQ2S+ issues in the nursing profession?
I believe that there is still a lot of improvement to be made. LGBTQ2S+ people are still being criminalized and discriminated against for something that they cannot control. It forces us to shy away from fully embracing ourselves and living our lives fruitfully.
In nursing education, we are given multiple lessons on compassionate and non-biased care; however, it is not a reality in the current healthcare climate. LGBTQ2S+ people are still being judged by nurses in the healthcare setting, a profession that prides itself on being empathetic. It is important that nurses "practice what they preach" and advocate for equity and respect for LGBTQ2S+ people. This will directly affect dynamics in the healthcare setting, develop deeper and more trusting nurse-patient relationships, and improve patient outcomes overall.
What's next for you in terms of healthcare and diversity involvement?
Although my journey at UofL is coming to an end in December, I plan on continuing to build a legacy for the LGBTQ2S+ community in my future endeavors. I’m hoping to get into medical school starting September 2023 and utilize my further education and nursing background to advocate for change.
Diverse populations continue to be underrepresented at the top of the healthcare hierarchy, and my goal is to increase awareness of these issues at every step of my journey. I will never stop advocating for the appreciation and support that we deserve, for the sake of those who have struggled or continue to struggle to combat discrimination within the healthcare context.
I’m excited about my future, as I will gain a vast amount of experiences that will further cement my passion to promote equitability for the LGBTQ2S+ and BIPOC populations.
Thanks for sharing, Saffren! We can't wait to see what you accomplish next.
Learn more about LGBTQ2S+ resources at ULethbridge at ulethbridge.ca/lgbtq