Although the social situation for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people has improved over the last decades, lesbian women still face unique challenges when seeking healthcare services.
To explore lesbian women's healthcare experiences specifically related to sexual orientation to achieve knowledge which can contribute to increased quality of healthcare for lesbian women.
Qualitative study based on written stories, with recruitment, information, and data sampling over the internet. Data consisted of 128 anonymously written answers to a web-based, open-ended questionnaire from a convenience sample of self-identified lesbian women. Data were analysed with systematic text condensation. Interpretation of findings was supported by theories of heteronormativity. Main outcome measures. Patients' histories of experiences where a lesbian orientation was significant, when seeing a doctor or another healthcare professional.
Analysis presented three different aspects of healthcare professionals' abilities, regarded as essential by our lesbian participants. First, the perspective of awareness was addressed--is the healthcare professional able to think of and facilitate the disclosure of a lesbian orientation? Second, histories pointed to the attitudes towards homosexuality--does the healthcare professional acknowledge and respect the lesbian orientation? Third, the impact of specific and adequate medical knowledge was emphasized--does the healthcare professional know enough about the specific health concerns of lesbian women?
To obtain quality care for lesbian women, the healthcare professional needs a persistent awareness that not all patients are heterosexual, an open attitude towards a lesbian orientation, and specific knowledge of lesbian health issues. The dimensions of awareness, attitude, and knowledge are interconnected, and a positive direction on all three dimensions appears to be a necessary prerequisite.