Nurses are often the face of their hospital; they are typically the first staff member to interact with the patient, and nurses are integral to providing a positive patient experience. In the ever-shifting landscape of culture, healthcare providers need to avoid discrimination and work to make sure patients feel at ease. While we have many resources that address cross-cultural competency (like this article from our Strategies for Nurse Manager’s reading room or the Health and Human Services’ guide), the medical community is just beginning to address how to effectively treat transgender patients. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently released treatment guidelines for transgender patients, and it is vital that nursing staffs help battle unconscious bias and create a safe climate for all of their patients.
In 2010, Lambda Legal found that a staggering 70 percent of transgender people had experienced discrimination in a hospital setting, and a 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force reported that 19 percent of patients were denied healthcare because of their status (via the New York Times). Because of this, 28 percent of the respondents have postponed medical care when sick and 33 percent don’t pursue preventive care because of their past experiences with medical professionals.
Better nurse education would be a great start to counteract this trend of discrimination and improve the climate for transgender patients; and when it comes to educating your staff, a little can go a long way. Part of the problem is treatment knowledge, but many of the issues could be solved with improved sensitivity training. Basic language education, such as what pronouns to use and asking the patient how they’d like to be addressed, can make a transgender patient feel at ease. Adding a gender and preferred name component to medical records and ensuring that they are up to date can greatly improve the consistency and quality of care as well.
Janis Booth, RN, shares a great example of how hospital staff can help a transgender person feel at ease from one of her readers:
“My new doctor saw my list of meds and knew immediately and opened with, ‘You look great…how long ago did you begin your transition?’ Put me right at ease, immediately, even though my name change had not caught up with their record keeping. I presented new IDs and they updated my info.”
Small things like asking the right questions in a gentle way can open up the patient and make them more comfortable, which will make your job much easier as well. Nurses get to set the tone of the patient’s experience, so properly training your staff on gender issues can make all the difference for a transgender patient in need.
Here are some great training resources on the topic:
- You can download the full AAMC guide here.
- WBUR has a list of tips to get you started.
- Janis Booth’s full article has a lot of great information as well.
- TransRecord and RAD Remedy are sites dedicated to gathering and sharing data on trans-friendly providers.
This article originally appeared at The Leaders' Lounge.