Studies show an increasing need for employee happiness in order for businesses and their people to be successful. In fact, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work and 48 percent of employees believe that respect is the most essential factor for a culture of inclusion.
A diverse and inclusive workplace boosts employee engagement and happiness. It creates a sense of belonging and helps facilitate teamwork—an important factor when working in healthcare.
We sat down with Fusion's travel nursing wives, Amanda and Tori, to gain a better understanding of what it's like working as a LGBTQ+ couple in the traveling medical professional field, and how inclusivity plays a role in their personal and professional lives.
For Amanda and Tori, Inclusivity Plays A Role in Travel Nursing
Megan Bebout: Tell us a little about yourselves. How did you two meet? How long have you been married?
Amanda and Tori Stewart: Tori is originally from Fremont, OH and Amanda is from Louisville, KY. Tori is a total Disney princess and would likely live inside Disney World if she could! She loves to be outdoors hiking or swimming, spending time with her family, and traveling. Amanda loves rock concerts, hiking, horseback riding, and finding unique activities to do wherever she winds up.
We met at our first nursing job in Toledo, OH. We didn’t interact much the first year we worked together. Our boss was a very observant lady and noticed that when they would assign us to the same floor, we worked very well together and would team nurse which the patients loved because they essentially had two nurses looking after them! We became friends through working together constantly. We also suspect she may have inadvertently been playing matchmaker by recognizing we were both LGBTQ+ (one of us knew they were, the other didn’t!!) since her daughter has a wife. We’ll have been married two years on May 18th!
What drew you both toward the medical profession?
We’ve both been nurses since 2015. Amanda likes to tease that Tori is the “Senior Nurse” since she passed NCLEX two weeks before Amanda did. We just passed our final class for our Master’s degree on May 7, 2021. We are officially MSNs!
Tori has known since she was little that she wanted to be a nurse. Amanda, on the other hand, grew up with an RN mom and a Paramedic RN dad so it’s in her blood. Tori is focused on Nurse Education and Amanda is focused on Nursing Administration. We both eventually would like to teach classes and clinicals at community colleges.
How long have each of you been traveling with Fusion Medical Staffing? Why Fusion?
We’ve both been with Fusion and working as travel nurses since October 2017. Fusion is the only agency we have ever worked with. We talked with another agency before reaching out to Fusion. It was a complete disaster. We were told that there were next to no contracts for travel teams and that we would be very difficult to place. When we searched for travel agencies a second time after almost two months of this agency not managing to find one single contract lead for us, Fusion popped up on a top-rated agency list, but unfortunately, we can’t remember which site it was on!
From the first phone call, we knew Fusion was our agency. The awesome guy that did our initial intake spent almost two hours with us on a conference call and got to know us as people. He listened to why we wanted to travel, why we were leaving our home hospital, our concerns about traveling as an LGBTQ+ couple, and I believe he also learned our favorite snacks and colors during that call, too! It took him a solid two minutes to tell us, “Do I have the recruiter for you!!” and Aubrey Foley inherited two spirited, adventurous travel nurses. She had us placed within a week and she has never had a shortage of options for us.
"Our favorite part of Fusion is the inclusive, family-oriented environment and the support from every single person from recruiter to compliance and client manager, on up."
We love that we can text our recruiter anything from, “Hey, we want to go to this place for our next assignment” to “Something’s not right, can we chat for a minute?” to “Look at these shoes/puppies/whatever!” Every time we’ve been able to visit the Fusion office in Omaha, we’re greeted with smiles, hugs, high fives, dance parties, you name it. Everyone we’ve met, whether we’ve met them or talked to them before or not, has known at least one thing about us and asks about it whenever we visit. How many agencies do that?!
What does inclusivity mean to you as members of the LGBTQ+ community and how does a workplace culture and environment impact your ability to be successful at your jobs?
Inclusivity means that everyone has a place and is respected and accepted, regardless of who they love, how they identify, or how they’re perceived. The work environment is going to decide the success or failure of the entire unit or facility. An inclusive environment is going to make the staff feel safe and accepted.
"When staff feels they are safe and accepted, this will usually manifest in their work ethic and their work quality and productivity. Happy workers usually mean happy patients!"
Do you consider workplace diversity when accepting job assignments?
Diversity closely aligns with inclusivity. To have a diverse environment, there must be an inclusive atmosphere. Most all-inclusive workplaces have large diversity in their workforce. Diversity in the workplace gives a ton of opportunities to learn! We spend a lot of time with one facility in Arizona and the staff is very diverse. We have learned about cultures across the globe from this team. It has helped us immensely in our travels across the country. We are able to help facilities such as the one we’re at now understand why one family or patient may be reacting the way they are because of a cultural belief or practice. Diversity helps patients as much as it helps your workers!
We absolutely consider diversity when accepting assignments. We have a worksheet that we created after our first assignment to assess whether an assignment will really be a good fit for us or not. The very first question that we ask any facility interviewing us is, “We are a married couple. We are both female. Is this something that is going to be an issue with you or your staff?” If there is even a split second of silence or a response that begins with “Well…” or “Um..” we will politely thank them for their interest and end the interview. We have only had one unit that has responded negatively to us because of being a same sex couple. Fusion intervened on our behalf and it worked out positively for us. We are always happy to chat with travelers that have questions or concerns about assignments!
What have been your experiences and roadblocks have you encountered in your profession as two super cool nursing wives? How did you overcome adversity?
We generally don’t encounter roadblocks. It takes most people at our assignments a good while to figure out we’re a couple. We don’t take our relationship to work. We never have. Being LGBTQ+ rarely comes up unless someone asks us if we’re twins or sisters. (Diversity point – remember that heteronormative (straight) culture isn’t the only thing out there! Remember this when asking if someone is related!) It’s been a little more noticeable since we have the same last name now. For the inquiring minds, Tori took Amanda’s last name. When these people do find out who and what we are, there are usually questions like, “Hey, I have this friend/family member/person in my life, can I ask you about some things?” We’ve had many talks with coworkers about their children being transgender and how to support them or how to grieve the child they thought they had, how to help their loved one through coming out, how to talk to family members about LGBTQ+ issues, and lots of other things.
There are a few instances that come to mind professionally, but one stands out most. At our home hospital, we were pulled into a patient room to intervene on behalf of a transgender patient that was being inappropriately identified by a physician. We were asked by our manager to be in the room while the physician addressed this individual. I believe we corrected the physician three or four times regarding the patient’s identity during a five-minute physician encounter. The patient was so grateful to have LGBTQ+ representation with them during that encounter.
The only adversity, and we honestly wouldn’t even call it that, that we’ve truly encountered was when we first came out in the workplace at our home hospital. We weren’t sure if we were going to lose our jobs as we worked for a Catholic institution, or if they would force one of us to move units because we were in a relationship. Fortunately, neither of those things happened and our manager called and talked to us to make sure that we weren’t being bullied and that we felt safe at work.
What advice would you give to other members of the LGBTQ+ community?
To our fellow LGBTQ+ family members, be patient. There are definitely times you’re going to feel like the sideshow at the circus. Remember that a lot of the places that travelers go may not have encountered many of us. Unless you’re threatened, mistreated, or bullied by them, take the opportunity to teach them about our community! You don’t know what’s going on with them. We’ve found out in more than one instance that the ‘prying’ coworker was being invasive because they weren’t sure of themselves and had never met anyone else ‘like them’ to talk to in a safe setting. We don’t have enough combined fingers and toes to count together how many questioning individuals we’ve come across in three and half years. Conversely, if something feels off, it probably is. If you don’t feel safe enough to come out in the workplace, that’s okay.
What are some good resources for others working as medical travelers in the LGBTQ+ community?
- GLAAD – Representation
- PFLAG – LGBTQ+, parents, families, and allies
- HRC – Human Rights Campaign
- GLBT – Peer to Peer Resources
- The Trevor Project
- National Suicide Hotline
What advice would you give to other medical professionals about treating LGBTQ+ patients?
To medical professionals treating LGBTQ+ patients, remember that we are humans. There haven’t been many medical professionals we’ve encountered that react negatively, but they are out there. Recognize your own biases. Everyone has them, including us. We as a community fully expect to be reacted to negatively. Help be part of the change! Do NOT, under any circumstance EVER “out” (telling others about the person’s orientation) a patient to family, friends, or other people. Not only is it disrespectful to the person, you may be placing them in danger if they are in unsafe/unhealthy environments.
"LGBTQ+ patients have unique health issues, most of which are going to be mental health issues. Many of us have gender dysphoria (struggle with our gender identities), depression, and anxiety. The biggest impact any healthcare professional can make on this community is giving these individuals a safe place."
Keep phone numbers and resources readily available for these patients. The National Suicide Hotline is so important. Nonjudgmental active listening will get you so far with these patients. They’re probably waiting for you to try and ‘talk them out of’ their orientation, ‘fix’ them, or dismiss them as crazy. Remind them that they are human, they matter, what they have to say matters, and that you’re there to help them if they’re willing to let you. Find out what the real concern is and help walk them through it. If you’re not sure how, there are so many resources available to providers!