KOKOMO, Ind. — Members of the LGBTQ+ community face unique health care challenges –which their medical providers aren’t always prepared to treat.
As a future family nurse practitioner, Jacob Barnes knows the special needs they face, including higher risk for substance use, sexually transmitted diseases, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, bullying, isolation, rejection, anxiety, depression, and suicide.
His mission is to make a difference.
“This is something personal to me,” said Barnes, who will graduate from Indiana University Kokomo’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program in May.
“In my experience, it can be difficult to receive competent or accurate health care geared to my needs as someone from the LGBTQ+ community,” he said, adding that he did his senior research presentation about health care for this population.
He learned that most providers receive minimal education about this group — but noted that Dea Kent, director of IU Kokomo’s Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) track, has incorporated it into the curriculum, and brought in a guest speaker to specifically address the topic.
“We talked pretty openly about it in class, and when I gave my presentation, I was able to provide them with some screenings that should be done for certain people in the LGBTQ+ community,” Barnes said. “You can’t always approach these patients and their needs the same way you can everyone else.”
Barnes previously earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from IU Kokomo in 2015, and works at St. Vincent Neighborhood Hospital Noblesville, a microhospital that offers 24/7 emergency care.
“I like that you see a range of patients, from babies to elderly people,” he said. “You see all kinds of disorders. It’s always different, you never know what you’re going to walk into each day.”
A feeling that he was ready to grow in his career brought him back to campus to become a family nurse practitioner.
“I had reached a point in my career that I was ready to branch out to something new in nursing, or go back to school,” he said. “I felt like I wanted to do more, and have more involvement in advocating for patients, and providing them the best care they can have.”
He’s grown in both his abilities and confidence as a provider.
“The best part of the program for me personally was realizing I have the potential to do a lot more for patients and make a bigger difference in patients’ lives than I do as a nurse,” he said. “It helped me develop my confidence as a primary health care provider. It makes me feel very proud of what I do, and excited about my future.”
He appreciates that IU Kokomo’s FNP program is all in-person, not online, and the small cohort size, which has helped the students become a supportive community for each other.
“We have group texts going back and forth every day about assignments and board prep, and signing up for our exams,” he said. “It’s really nice to have a small group of people you can depend on.”
After graduating in May, Barnes plans to move to Salt Lake City, where his husband will be based as a flight attendant. His goal is to find a job as a primary health care provider, as he is prepared and excited for the challenge.
“I take more pride in what I do,” he said. “I feel this new spark of wanting to provide the best care I can for people.”