34,000 healthcare professionals surveyed indicate they have higher bias against transgender people

Dec. 4, 2023
The Implicit Association Test.

By analyzing data from the Harvard Implicit Association Test—a widely accepted measure of a person’s attitudes toward people based on characteristics like race, gender, and sexuality—researchers find that healthcare professionals, and in particular nurses, are more biased against transgender people than are people who are not healthcare professionals.

A questionnaire administered before and after the test shows that healthcare professionals are less likely to know transgender people personally and that nurses are more likely to conflate sex and gender identity. These results were reported November 3 in the journal Heliyon.

To specifically assess the attitudes of healthcare professionals towards transgender people, the researchers focused on a subset of the respondents from 2020 to 2022, including 11,996 nursing healthcare professionals and 22,443 non-nursing healthcare professionals. These responses were compared to 177,810 responses of non-healthcare professionals.

A person’s bias is reported as their “D-score,” which can range from -2 to 2, with higher scores indicating more anti-transgender views. The standard classification for this test lists values over 0.15 as “slightly biased,” and over 0.35 and 0.65 as “moderately” and “strongly” biased, respectively.

Non-healthcare professionals on average reported a D-score of 0.116, which is considered to mean that they have little to no bias. However, healthcare professionals (non-nursing), reported an elevated score of 0.149, which is on the edge of what is considered to be “slightly biased.” The average D-score for nursing healthcare professionals was 0.176, which falls clearly within the range of “slightly biased.”

The participants’ D-score assesses their implicit bias—their true beliefs which they may be too reluctant to share—but their explicit bias, or their self-reported views, were assessed by a questionnaire.

Nursing healthcare professionals were significantly more likely to agree with statements like “I believe a person can never change their gender” or “I think there is something wrong with a person who says they are neither a man nor a woman” compared to other healthcare professionals and non-healthcare professionals.

Cell Press release on Newswise