Nursing Matters – how we can all promote LGBTQ+ inclusivity

Gemma ForsytheIn celebration of pride month, Gemma Forsythe has spoken to LGBTQ+ members within the profession to discuss their experiences and thoughts of how dentistry can become more inclusive.

This month for Nursing Matters I have decided to focus on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in dentistry. This is because it is pride month! I have spoken to three LGBTQ+ members who work in the dental sector. They have shared their views and experiences of being a part of the LGBTQ+ community working in dentistry. Find out what their thoughts are below!

Emma Anastasi – CEO and founding director of Diamond Dental Staff

How did you get into dentistry?

I was given the opportunity to join a small NHS practice as a dental receptionist. From there, I went on to qualify as a dental nurse from King’s College Hospital. I then joined Dawood and Tanner in 2013 and was trained in impression taking and dental radiography.

I relocated from London to Brighton in 2016 to accept a practice managers position at a mixed practice. After a bad experience with recruitment agencies, I left there to launch Diamond Dental Staff in 2018 with the vision to build a community of dental professionals that are supported with their career advancement and development.

How have you found being an LGBTQ+ member working in dentistry?

Mostly accepting with a lot of assumptions and some very personal questions, which were uncomfortable at times.

I have been told that I need to go to church to find a husband! Though, the one that makes me laugh is being advised to go to a hot sauna to find a big, strong man.

I think people just assume and ask if you have a boyfriend. But it’s more inclusive and a safer bet to just ask if you are in a relationship or if you have a special someone etc.

What challenges do you feel LGBTQ+ members face when accessing dental services?

There are many challenges around gender identity and this is more of an issue for the trans and non-binary community. Medical/registration forms are not as inclusive as they can be and there is a lot of anxiety around being misgendered or for someone’s pronouns to not be respected or taken seriously based on appearances.

We need to do more as a profession to ensure that all members of local communities are able to access healthcare in an accepting and understanding way, to provide equality and diversity training around LGBTQ+ inclusion – which will greatly benefit both patients and members of the dental team.

Do you feel there is enough inclusivity within dentistry?

I feel that it is a subject that requires frequent reviews. Like everything else in dentistry, it’s forever changing.

There is a famous Maya Angelou quote which is: ‘When you know better, do better.’ I think we need to get with the times and review outdated documents such as new joiner forms or new patient registration forms.

We need to be mindful of the language we use when we are speaking with patients and our colleagues. This self awareness and confidence can be achieved by receiving the right training. It’s important that we work towards improving inclusivity to welcome all marginalised communities.

Over the past year alone, we have notably received more non-binary applications from job seekers that are joining the Diamond Dental Staff community. I believe this is because there is more representation now than ever before. Especially with platforms like Instagram and TikTok, they have helped others understand who they are and how they wish to be identified.

What steps do you think we could take to improve inclusivity in dentistry for LGBTQ+ members?

Improve team members’ confidence by providing team training on the challenges or issues that members of the LGBTQ+ community face when seeking medical or dental appointments.

Sharing some examples of what their anxieties or experiences might be to increase awareness. As a result, we as a profession can ensure we are doing all we can to create a safe environment for a marginalised community to seek the dental treatment that they need.

We are working in a professional environment. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to ensure that we create a non-judgemental, safe, and welcoming environment for all our patients and colleagues. Regardless of our differences, we need to maintain a culture that celebrates how wonderfully diverse our local communities and teams are.

Diamond Dental Staff provides equality and diversity training to practices and is proud to be supporting some of the UK’s largest dental groups with this training.

If you would like to hear more information regarding inclusion training for your practice and team, please get in touch.

Oli Jones – hygiene therapist

How did you get into dentistry?

After being terrified of the dentist until I was around 14, I decided to confront my fears and look into the industry a little bit more in order to rationalise my fear.

I ended up becoming very interested in the ins and outs of the job. I then focused for the next few years in school and sixth form. This was so I could follow the path that I wanted to follow from a young age.

After being a dental nurse for 18 months I studied and qualified as a dental therapist in 2021.

How have you found being an LGBTQ+ member working in dentistry?

Working in predominantly female practices, I have always felt very comfortable expressing myself and not hiding parts of my personality.

As the years have gone by and I’ve grown up, I have not had any bad experiences myself within dentistry in regards to my sexuality. I feel like equality training to all dental practice members along with LGBTQ+ representation in the media has changed attitudes over the last few years.

What challenges do you feel LGBTQ+ members face when accessing dental services?  

Most registered professionals and colleagues are protected. However, I feel as though there are still members of the LGBTQ+ patient clientele that are not able to access the dental care they are entitled to.

A report by the London Assembly stated: ‘70% of trans people had experienced transphobia from their primary care provider.’ Of course, this is an issue that the entire dental professional needs to evaluate and work together. Therefore, we can achieve equality for all members of our patient base.

What steps do you think we could take to improve inclusivity in dentistry for LGBTQ+ members?

Everyone in the dental field needs to talk about these issues and not be afraid to ask each other questions. This is the only way LGBTQ+ members of the community will achieve greater inclusivity.

There is so much we can all learn from each other. At the end of the day, we are registered professionals who are there to treat dental diseases and improve oral hygiene. Therefore, our sexuality should never impact our ability to do our job or integrate with the rest of the dental community.

Anonymous

Our final featured LGBTQ+ member would like to remain anonymous. They work as a locum dental nurse and are also sedation qualified.

How did you get into dentistry?

I started my career in dentistry at the age of 18. I had researched careers through apprenticeships which were ‘hands on’ and in which I could gradually progress within my role. Dentistry seemed to tick all of the right boxes.

How have you found being an LGBTQ+ member working in dentistry?

In the early stages, I experienced some difficulties with being stereotyped. Dental nursing was seen as a predominantly female job role within my practice. This did lead to feeling uncomfortable at the beginning of my career. But patients soon accepted that male dental nurses do exist!

What challenges do you feel LGBTQ+ members face when accessing dental services? 

I feel as though LGBTQ+ members accessing dental services should not face any challenges due to the equality and diversity ethics of the dental team. The main challenge an LGBTQ+ member could potentially face would entail being misgendered or improper use of pronouns.

Do you feel there is enough inclusivity within dentistry?

Working within the dental industry for the last five years has allowed me to meet and speak to numerous members of the LGBTQ+ community. These members all feel safe and welcome in the wider dental community.

Although accepted, I personally would love to see more members of my community take an active role on the social media side of dentistry. This would increase our visibility and show patients that dentistry is evolving and following current times.

What steps do you think we could take to improve inclusivity in dentistry for LGBTQ+ members?

I feel there is more scope for inclusivity within dentistry. But from my experience, most dental practices have had a diverse team. It would be nice to see pronouns options on mainstream dental software such as SOE/R4.


Thank-you to all three participants for giving up their time to provide their views for this month’s Nursing Matters.

I hope you have enjoyed this edition. I also hope you all have an amazing Pride month, however you are celebrating!

Catch up with previous Nursing Matters:

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