It should go without saying that no one deserves to feel as though they aren’t respected or accepted. Especially when they’re turning to people for help with one of the most important things in their lives – their health. 

So why do so many individuals face relentless discrimination and exclusion as a result of their lived experiences, gender, race, or broader identity? Well, what we say, and how we say it, has a lot to do with it. 

Using language that is inclusive and respectful of all people boils down to more than just buzzwords and linguistics – it’s the key to unlocking compassionate care, trust, celebrating experiences, and proving that all are welcome. 

Read on to find out how the language we choose to use in healthcare has the power to improve access to care and health outcomes for all patients. 

What is Inclusive Language in Healthcare? 

You wouldn’t label a venue with countless flights of stairs and no lifts or ramps an ‘accessible location’. Similarly a hairdressing salon that only worked on one specific hair type couldn’t be called ‘inclusive’. 

The same rule exists in healthcare and the language we use within this setting. While some health clinics and practitioners use language that excludes gender-diverse and non-binary folk other clinics like Hazel acknowledge that not all women menstruate, and not all who menstruate are women. 

Inclusive language can help create a safe and inclusive space for everyone. While inclusive language in part means adding in the intentional and conscious use of language that acknowledges and includes people of all backgrounds, lifestyles, experiences and identities, inclusive language in healthcare also means avoiding the use of certain words and terminology that may exclude particular groups of people. 

Examples of Inclusive Language in Healthcare 

Yes, the inclusive language landscape is ever-evolving and changing to create spaces and environments where everyone feels seen and welcomed. No, that isn’t an excuse for us to channel our inner bigots, throw our hands up in defeat, continue to further marginalise members of the community, and put further learning in the ‘too hard pile’. 

Examples of how inclusive language can be used in healthcare include: 

Chosen Names

A person’s birth name isn’t always the name an individual wants to go by – and no, we aren’t talking about nicknames here. 

A chosen name is a name that differs from the name appointed to a person at birth. A person may go by a chosen name for a number of reasons, and while it’s nobody's business but their own, referring to the individual by their chosen in a healthcare setting has been shown to:

  • Acknowledge and affirm gender identity 
  • Reduce mental health risks 
  • Celebrate self-expression and cultural identity 


Everyone has pronouns, and everyone has a preference for the pronouns they use and are referred to with. While some individuals use gendered pronouns, such as he/him and she/her, others use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them, and neo-pronouns – including xe, fae, ey, and ze. 

As a result of blatant misgendering and harmful language, transgender folk have long experienced discrimination and exclusion from medicine. If you’re unsure of a person’s pronouns, it’s important you ask as opposed to using your bias to make assumptions. 

Remember, it takes 10 seconds to ask an individual for their preferred pronouns. It can take a lifetime for a misgendered individual to have faith in trusting the healthcare system once again. 

Gender Inclusivity 

Gender identity and expression vary from person to person, and whilst there may be cultural expectations of gender, everyone will have their own internal view of what gender means and feels like to them

Regardless of how a person may present to the outside world, and how your unconscious bias may cause you to perceive them, their gender identity may reflect a different story. 

Using gender-specific language like “all females” or assuming that a male-presenting patient has specific anatomy can be incredibly harmful. Instead of making assumptions, use language that isn’t presumptive, such as:

  • ‘People who menstruate’ not ‘women who menstruate’ 
  • Women and people assigned female at birth not just “women’
  • ‘Your partner or support person’ not ‘your husband/wife’ (if your doctor is unsure of your family dynamic)

Inclusive language should cover all people from all walks of life and shouldn’t end with pronouns and gender. When respecting diverse identities, it’s also important to include aspects such as religion, age, and disabilities.

Comprehensive care should know no bounds and a truly comprehensive healthcare system should be inclusive of everyone’s experience. 

Why Does Inclusive Language in Healthcare Matter? 

Remember the age-old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Yeah, as it turns out, it’s a load of BS – words can and do hurt. 

The truth is, the everyday phrases and language we use (while not always intentional) can still be unconsciously biassed and inherently damaging. 

From addressing a room full of people as “guys,” to suggesting that only one gender can menstruate, or using bias to assume someone’s pronouns, hat we say matters. While it is important to use inclusive language in all aspects of our lives, one of the most important settings is in healthcare. 

More than one in six LGBTQ+ adults have reported avoiding healthcare as a result of triggering past experiences and a fear of anticipated discrimination, judgement, and unacceptance. If you ask us, that’s one in six too many. 

Using inclusive language can dismantle discrimination, build trust, and promote acceptance. Through using inclusive language, healthcare practitioners can:

  • Build trust and connection between patient and practitioner
  • Show that they respect all identities and experiences 
  • Make healthcare accessible for all individuals 
  • Promote equity 

When healthcare professionals use inclusive language, along with fostering a safe culture of inclusivity, patients are given a better understanding of their health and have the confidence to make choices relating to their sexual and reproductive health needs in a safe and educated way.

Building an Inclusive Healthcare Culture 

ICYMI, using inclusive language is not just a choice, but a responsibility…and a pretty big one at that. 

Stigmatising language increases bias and perpetuates prejudicial beliefs, whereas inclusive language embraces diversity and allows all patients to feel seen, respected, and comfortable with their care provider. It’s the bare minimum, really. 

By recognising and respecting the diversity of the patient (and wider human) population, healthcare professionals and clinics can restore some of the trust that was lost to generations of harmful language and exclusionary practices, improve communication, and help contribute to positive patient outcomes. 

Many hands make light work, and when we as a society make a conscious effort to check our privilege and speak without bias, we have the power to make some serious positive changes. 

Inclusive Language at Hazel 

As Australia’s first interdisciplinary Women’s Health clinic dedicated to helping people understand and treat their pain, we serve a diverse group of the community. Our patients come from various cultural, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds – all of which are celebrated. 

Whether you’re browsing our website, scrolling through our socials, booking an appointment with one of our expert clinicians, or attending a consultation, we practise diversity and inclusion through every step of the Hazel patient journey. We believe that by using inclusive language, we ensure that all of our patients get to receive the best care possible while reducing the risk of further harming marginalised members of the community. 

While we treat a range of female health concerns such as endometriosis, PCOS, and painful periods, many of the people living with these conditions don’t identity as female – meaning both men and women can be effected by these health concerns. At our core, we are committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for everyone to receive the care they need. Period. 

The Bottom Line

Everyone deserves to feel seen, heard, represented, and cared for – whether that be at school, in the office, or at the doctor’s office. 

Maintaining an inclusive environment where all are welcome in healthcare is crucial. Why? Because everyone should feel safe when accessing the care they need. Fear of bias, judgement, or mistreatment should never stand in the way of individuals accessing care. 

To access truly unbiased, comprehensive care where your identity is celebrated (and not questioned) join Hazel today.