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10 Tips for Working With Transgender Patients

Concorde Staff

Concorde Staff

Updated June 1, 2022. The information contained in this blog is current and accurate as of this date.

As a healthcare provider, it's important to create an environment where patients feel safe and supported. This includes patients from all walks of life, such as transgender patients. However, according to a 2014 Lambda Legal survey, 70% of transgender and gender-nonconforming patients experienced discrimination when attempting to receive health care, and 27% of these patients reported being refused necessary health care. Examples of discrimination may include a provider using harsh language, blaming the patient for their health status, or refusing to touch them.

It's also important to remember that many transgender people are largely medically underserved, even if they have insurance. Many insurance companies don't provide coverage for essential medical services and care for transgender people, such as hormonal therapy, mental health services, and surgeries. This, combined with previous negative experiences, may make transgender patients hesitant to seek care.

One reason health care providers may struggle to create a safe, welcoming environment for transgender patients is that they feel they have the lack the knowledge or resources to do so. In fact, a 2018 survey from the American Academy of Family Physicians  found that nearly 86% of surveyed clinicians were willing to care for transgender patients, and only 69% felt prepared to care for them. This list of tips may help as a starting point to help learn how to work well with transgender patients.

Spread the Word

Ensure that transgender patients know they're welcome at your practice and that you'll provide care for them. Consider contacting local LGBT community centers to let them know they can refer people seeking care to you or to give them information to display about your practice. It may also be helpful to update your online presence to showcase that you're transgender-friendly and happy to treat them.

Use Transgender-Positive Cues

Add touches throughout your practice that reaffirm to transgender patients that they're in a safe environment. For example, you may hang posters about transgender people in your office or provide literature about transgender people. Another important change is updating your intake paperwork and general records to ask for a chosen name as well as a legal name. Include space for patients to disclose their sex and gender.

Treat Them With Respect

Treat every patient like you would hope a caregiver to treat you. Speak to your transgender patients like you would any patient and be mindful of your body language. For example, use open body language and be courteous and relaxed throughout the interaction.

Refer to Them Appropriately

Use the correct pronouns and names for your patients, even if they're not in the room with you. If you're unsure of how a patient would like you to refer to them, it's okay to ask respectfully , which also shows you don't want to make assumptions about them or their identity. You may also share this information about yourself, such as saying "Hello, my name is Nurse Janelle, and I use 'she' and 'her' pronouns. How would you like me to address you?"

Create a Policy for Handling Inappropriate Behavior

Establish a policy for how your practice will handle discriminatory comments and inappropriate behavior. Ensure all members of your staff understand the details and importance of the policy. It's also crucial to provide them with formal training about working with transgender people.

Focus on the Care They're Seeking

It's also important to focus on the care the patient is seeking. Limit questions and comments to those that directly pertain to their care. This can help the patient feel more comfortable.

Don't Use Them as a Training Opportunity

Help the patient maintain their dignity by avoiding treating them like a learning opportunity. If a patient has a unique medical experience, use your best judgment about how to proceed. Always ask their permission before inviting anyone else in the room and ask about their comfort levels. This helps the patient keep control of the situation and who has access to their body.

Keep Their Information Private

Treat a person's gender identity similarly to any other personal health information. Only disclose their gender identity to the people who specifically need to know in order to provide care and be discrete when sharing the information. Follow the patient's wishes about what information you share and whom you share it with, and be sure to inform them when you share it with others. This helps protect patients and keep the focus on their care, not their identity.

Don't Ask Invasive Questions

Avoid asking unnecessary questions about the patient's identity or transition. Never ask them whether they've had genital surgery. The only acceptable time to ask about their genital status is if it relates directly to their care. These questions and other unnecessary questions may make the patient feel uncomfortable.

Keep Current With Issues Affecting Transgender People

Continue your knowledge about transgender legal and medical issues, and consider pursuing further formal training about working with transgender patients. One resource that may be helpful for legal matters for transgender people is the Transgender Law Center. Some resources that may be helpful for medical information are the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, especially the Standards of Care  for gender identity, and the Primary Care Protocol for Transgender Patient Care  from the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation also provides a range of resources.

If you're interested in pursuing a rewarding career based in compassionate health care, consider learning more about one of our programs. At Concorde Career Colleges, we believe in creating equal opportunities for all qualified associates. We respect every individual as they are and foster an environment of diversity.

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