Ally Training Yields AT Success

June 7, 2022 by Lydia Hicks

To commemorate Pride Month throughout June, the NATA Now blog will share a variety of topics to support our members’ efforts to provide compassionate and culturally competent patient care to all.

Cultural competence has been at the forefront of the NATA LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee’s efforts to help athletic trainers become mindful and better equipped to serve patients with respect to patient values. According to the NATA statement on cultural competence, patients’ values comprise features “such as gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and socioeconomic status that can influence health and well-being.”

ATs need not only to understand, but also, acknowledge these values in their clinical decision-making process, especially when treating patients from the LGBTQIA+ community. Hence, the inception, significance and success of the Safe Space Ally Training program.

Found in the NATA Professional Development Center (PDC), Safe Space Ally Training for the Athletic Trainer, fondly called “Safe Space,” has become a household name among NATA members in just one year. According to the June NATA News Forward Together: Success Through Support article “Training To Be an Ally,” the training has become one of the most completed courses in the PDC. It was also the third most popular course in 2021, overall.

Intended to be a course meant to increase cultural competence among NATA members, those who have completed the training praise it for its impact on their careers, especially as it relates to serving LGBTQIA+ patients. Notable is also the diversity among course takers with regards to how they have applied cultural competence through their Safe Space Ally Training experiences.

Jamie Blackim, MS, LAT, ATC, an eight-year NATA member, attests to how Safe Space has helped her provide an open-door policy, where her student athletes can be transparent about their identities. Abby DeDecker, MHRD, SCAT, ATC, a 20-year NATA veteran member and a South Carolina Athletic Trainers' Association (SCATA) volunteer, shares how it has broadened her knowledge about the LGBTQIA+ community, enhanced her member engagement and inclusion skills, while improving her career as an AT.

Read on to learn why they are so avid about the training and how it has fostered success in their various roles.


What inspired you to take the Safe Space Ally Training course?

As someone who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, it was important to me to make sure I stay up to date on all things Safe Space and have a full understanding of everything that it encompasses in order to best serve my athletes and make sure they are comfortable, feel safe and know they have an ally if they ever need one. 

How has the Safe Space Ally Training course increased your cultural competence as an AT?

It has really broadened more of my knowledge and understanding of LGBTQIA+ from all aspects and angles and helped to change my immediate thinking of how I approach certain situations and what words I use. 

How have you applied this competence in your setting?

Yes definitely! Being in the high school setting, you have a lot of kids who are still trying to find themselves and figure out life, so I feel it has been very applicable for my setting. In my setting, by being open with who I am and displaying my Safe Space sign on my door, it has given me the unique opportunity to be able to help guide some athletes who are questioning their sexuality and the things they may be feeling. I have had students outright tell me they are confused about who they may be and some students have come out to me first (which is truly an honor). But having been through the Safe Space training, it has given me the resources to know how to navigate these conversations, give them a space that is open and trusting and just be the understanding person they need in that vulnerable time in their life.  

What does compassionate health care look like to you? 

Giving high-level, consistent care and passion and a safe and trustworthy facility where anyone is welcome and will receive the best treatment regardless of gender, identification, race, origin, etc. 

How can ATs be leaders in patient-centered health care to the LGBTQIA+ community? 

I think we are in a unique position where we have the ability to really get to know and spend a lot of time with our athletes, thus creating a better bond and trusting atmosphere. Having that ability really helps to create a high level of trust and openness that is essential to good health care.

What words of encouragement do you have for ATs who also want to provide culturally competent care to LGBTQIA+ patients?

Do the Safe Space Ally Training! It really does help to open to your eyes to the important issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community and it will help you better understand how to provide the appropriate health care and treatment to those individuals in the most caring and passionate way. 


What inspired you to take the Safe Space Ally Training course?

My former work setting introduced me to many people of many different backgrounds, demographics, socioeconomic perspectives, cultures and gender identity; so I felt it was important to continue my education so I could continue to be an ally to all communities.

How has the Safe Space Ally Training course increased your cultural competence as an AT?

Safe Space Ally Training gave me a foundation of understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community, terminology and differences in health care. It has made me more comfortable to seek further knowledge and ask appropriate questions to better myself as an athletic trainer and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ population.

How have you applied this competence in your setting?

I currently serve in two volunteer roles within SCATA and my knowledge and understanding of underrepresented communities has helped me with member engagement, inclusion and seeing the need for diverse volunteer groups so all are represented. 

What does compassionate health care look like to you?

Compassionate health care means treating the whole patient as a person, and respecting their individuality. As an athletic trainer, if we only treat the injury, we are not serving the patient to our best ability. Healing is multifaceted and respecting a person's unique individualism assists in their well-being. 

How can ATs be leaders in patient-centered health care to the LGBTQIA+ community?

Athletic trainers are often the first point of contact and bridge between patients and other health care providers and can assist members of the LGBTQIA+ community with the right health care providers, who will respect their needs. Being an ally means building a team full of other allies and educating fellow health care providers, all while respecting patient confidentiality. 

What words of encouragement do you have for ATs who also want to provide culturally competent care to LGBTQIA+ patients? 

Don't be afraid to ask appropriate questions so you can better support your patient. This will go a long way in building trust and patient relationships. Open your ears and truly listen before you act.


The LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee will be presenting the Safe Space Ally Training course during the 73rd NATA Clinical Symposia & AT Expo June 28 -July 1 in Philadelphia. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Sign up for the course in the NATA Professional Development Center to improve your cultural competence and advance your career.



“How To Be an Ally” Handout
LGBTQIA+ Specific Cultural Competency Resources


Cultural Competence Handout

Cultural Competence in Health Care