No items found

Celebrating Pride Month: 10 Tips for Providing Care to LGBTQIA+ Patients

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Key Takeaways

  • June is Pride Month, and in recognition of LGBTQIA+ individuals, it’s important for HCPs to be aware of correct language and terms to use when treating these patients.
  • Some things HCPs can do to make LGBTQIA+ patients feel comfortable is to use appropriate terms and inclusive language, create a welcoming office environment, and assess the patient using unbiased, neutral terminology.
  • Hospital systems including Rush, UAB Medicine, and Kaiser Permanente are making strides towards a more inclusive, safe treatment center for all individuals.

In the United States, June represents the first month of summer vacation, but for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, (questioning), intersex, and agender (LGBTQIA) community, it has stronger significance. June is observed as Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which occurred at the end of the month in 1969. Every year, members of the LGBTQIA community participate in parades, gatherings, and events that celebrate who they are. 

What’s important for the healthcare provider (HCP) to remember, during all of this celebration, is that these patients may present to your practice setting with different conditions and needs than heterosexual patients. Ensuring quality and appropriate care for LHBTQIA individuals is an ongoing issue in the healthcare industry, and healthcare clinicians in both urban and rural cities need to be well-versed on how to provide adequate, fair, and unbiased care, especially considering that disparities among this population are frequently experienced and reported. 

The following are 10 tips and reminders for all HCPs when providing care to LGBTQIA+ patients both during Pride Month and throughout the remainder of the year. 

Expand Your LGBTQIA+ Care Knowledge

Nurses must expand their own knowledge on the subjects of sexual orientation (SO), and gender identity (GI), and how both areas are included in healthcare. The National LGBT Center for Health Education provides CE/CME opportunities for HCPs to further their education. HCPs can sit through webinars and health learning modules, attend conferences, watch videos, and more with the objective of: 

  • Advancing health equity for LGBTQIA+ people and the populations which may intersect with the LGBTQIA+ community;
  • Addressing and eliminating health disparities for the LGBTQIA+ community;
  • Optimizing access to cost-effective health care for the LGBTQIA+ community; and
  • Improving the quality of care for LGBTQIA+ people by providing training and technical assistance to healthcare providers and staff across the globe

Be Aware of Key LGBTQIA+ Definitions

The Center has an in-depth guide for terms and expressions that should be used and avoided when communicating with LGBTQIA+ individuals and how these terms can be used in the clinical setting. Many of these terms are helpful when referring to gender identity, or when a person identifies as a different gender than their biological parts at birth. Gender identity also includes individuals who identify as genderfluid and or have gender expansive identities.

Clinicians should remember that all subjects of SO or GI fit neatly into one category, so they should be well-versed in all different terminologies when treating these patients. In a healthcare setting, there may be terms that providers or professionals can use terms that describe sexual behavior, rather than focus on orientation, such as MSM (men who have sex with men) or WSM (women who have sex with women) in order to identify any associated risks.

Get to Know the LGBTQIA+ Lifestyle

Deepening your knowledge base will enrich your understanding of sexuality in general, and increase your nimbleness in identifying potential health risks for patients seeking your care. Keep your knowledge up-to-date with ongoing training, reading, and learning from others who are skilled in communicating with and caring for these patients.

Create a Welcoming Environment for LGBTQIA+ Patients

Having an office setting that is welcoming and warm to patients of all walks of life ensures that your patients feel comfortable disclosing forms of personal information. With the history of discrimination and at both the individual and institutional levels, LGBTQIA+ patients may conduct an initial scan of an office setting to ensure they feel comfortable entering.  Some things an individual may watch for and take note of during their time in your reception or waiting room area:

  • Is your organization’s nondiscrimination policy in a visible location?
  • A rainbow flag, pink triangle, or other symbols of inclusiveness
  • Availability of unisex restrooms
  • Health education literature with diverse images and inclusive language, including information about LGBTQIA+ health
  • Posters announcing days of observance such as World AIDS Day, Pride, and National Transgender Day of Remembrance

Use Inclusive Language

Language matters when discussing and approaching LGBTQIA+ centered care as HCPs provide care for everyone. For marital status, HCPs may want to print a form that reads, “relationship status: married, partnered, or other,” as well as, of course, any gender identification spaced to include an option outside of male or female.

When asking patients to provide their names, it’s also helpful to include an additional space indicating “Preferred Name,” as a transgender individual may not wish to be called by a name that reflects their gender identity. And including “preferred pronoun” on a form shows an understanding that someone may not identify as they appear.

Use Gender-Neutral Language

Some LGBTQIA+ individuals approach each interaction with open-mindedness and a nonjudgmental attitude. Words like “person” instead of a specific gender is a better way to address individuals who may  not identify as male or female. 

Pronouns are also incredibly important, and starting with a general “they” can be helpful if it’s not clear which pronoun your patient prefers. When in doubt about how to best address a patient, don’t be afraid to simply ask. Asking your patient how they would like to be addressed is a sign of respect and signifies that you are aware that not all individuals identify with she/he pronouns.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Questions such as, “Is there anything else that would help me ensure you get the most out of this visit?” can help patients share relevant health information.

Do not overwhelm patients with questions unrelated to the reason for their visit, or to enhance your own knowledge about transgender health. If caring for LGBTQIA+ patients is new to you, it may also be helpful to practice your responses to questions in advance, such as “Thank you for being open with me; this will help me provide better care for you.” 

Reflect the Patient’s Language

HCPs cannot presume to know the practice’s of the patient and cannot assume to know their lifestyle. Some individuals may have had or have sexual experiences with individuals of the opposite sex, and bisexual individuals may have long periods of monogamy; keep in mind that sexuality can change over time.

Be Aware of Mental and Physical Health Risks for LGBTQIA+ Patients

Societal phobias, violence, and hate crimes – and the fear of them — are all too real for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Along with the potential for being ostracized by family and other social groups, this can contribute to chronic anxiety and depression. Additionally, LGBTQIA+ individuals who are members of minority populations often face a double burden of discrimination.

It’s also important to build your awareness of the specific physical health problems LGBTQIA+ individuals face. For instance, some specific healthcare risks in the LGBTQ community as compared to the non-LGBTQIA+ population, and especially for youth, including:

  • Higher risk of substance abuse
  • Higher risk of STDs
  • Higher risk of cancers
  • Higher risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Higher risk of bullying
  • Higher risk of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and suicide

 

Familiarize yourself, whenever possible, with the specific risks of the population that you will be caring for so you can appropriately screen for any associated health conditions and offer resources as appropriate.

Convey Respect

The LGBTQIA+ patient in front of you has taken a courageous step to be in your office and disclose some of the most personal information about their lives. Having a positive and affirming experience will ensure that the individual will seek future care in a timely manner.

Becoming aware of resources specifically designed for LGBTQIA+ individuals and making referrals as appropriate will convey that you care enough to become informed about their particular needs. The quality of your interaction can truly make a difference in someone’s health — and life.

Improving Patient Care Across the System

Some of the nation’s most popular hospital systems have taken giant steps to improve LGBTQIA+ care and reduce discrimination. Hospital leaders from Rush, Kaiser Permanente and CommonSpirit Health shared how their hospitals and health systems are improving care and mitigating discrimination toward the LGBTQ community.

Kaiser Permanente

  • Recognized for 11 consecutive years as an LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader by the Human Rights Campaign
  • Vocal about the need for equity across healthcare and beyond for LGBTQ Americans, advocating for workplace protections and standing up for the rights of transgender individuals

 

Billings Clinic

  • Committed to ensuring an inclusive, compassionate environment for all
  • Organization that actively works on internal and external policies to ensure the meeting the needs of patients, we provide training opportunities for our staff to better understand and meet LGBTQ+ patient needs, and we have providers who are resources in the community to connect with these patients.

 

Rush

  • Maintaining a culture of respect, inclusion and equal treatment for patients, visitors, students and employees who are LGBTQIA+ is deeply ingrained in the mission.
  • Formed Affirm: The Rush Center for Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Health, a comprehensive center that provides safe, accessible, affirming and multidisciplinary, comprehensive care from across the Rush System to those who identify as LGBTQIA+.” 

 

UAB Medicine

  • Designated as a leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality by the Healthcare Equality Index for the survey year 2020-21. 
  • Made significant progress in creating an inclusive and affirming environment for both our LGBTQ patient and employee populations
  • Updated the provider directory so patients can find providers with training and a focus on the LGBT patient population.

 

If you feel your hospital or facility needs updated forms with inclusive language, you can approach your administration with some resources on updated forms, such as those from the LGBT center.

References

  1. Brusie C. 10 tips for caring for LGBTQIA+ patients. Nurse.org. Published June 3, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021.
  2. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month. Library of Congress. Accessed June 15, 2021.
  3. Mitchell H, Gooch K. It’s Pride Month: How 7 hospitals are improving LGBTQ-centered care and reducing discrimination. Becker’s Hospital Review. Published June 9, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021.

 

2 Responses

  1. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to continue reading this article?

Log in to your account