Attitudes towards and awareness of gay and lesbian patients: a survey of physician assistants

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Takaishi, Mary
Bunton, Patricia A.

The homosexual subculture provides a unique challenge for all health care professionals. Attitudes of healthcare providers may prevent homosexual persons from seeking and receiving healthcare. Research has been conducted on physicians and medical students concerning their attitudes about homosexuality but a similar study has not been done on physician assistants.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to survey family practice physician assistants to determine their attitudes towards and awareness of gay and lesbian patients. A survey was sent to all family practice physician assistants in the states of Kansas, New Jersey and Oregon. The results of the survey were analyzed using Chi-Square analysis.

Results: The survey response rate was 57% (n=168). Regarding physician assistant awareness of gay and lesbian patients, 82.3% and 84.4% of the sample, respectively, were aware of gay and lesbian patients in their practice. The majority of the respondents appeared to have positive attitudes towards gay and lesbian patients in obtaining a sexual history, in providing care, and in attending continuing medical education sessions concerning gay and lesbian health issues. Due to the small sample size, the results should be viewed with caution.

Conclusions: This preliminary study represents the first study of the awareness and attitudes of physician assistants towards homosexual patients. The findings were positive overall. A nationwide study is recommended before the results and conclusions can be generalized for all physician assistants.

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A project presented to the Department of Physician Assistant of Wichita State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Physician Assistant.