Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference: Best Practices in Caring for LGBTQ Patients and Families

Members of the LGBTQ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer – community often face health disparities linked to social stigma, discrimination, and denial of civil and human rights. Data systems used to monitor LGBTQ populations and their health needs are sparse and healthcare environments have been slow to openly acknowledge this community.

Those who serve as health and staff educators have the power to drive effective changes to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ patients, families, and caregivers.

Tips for creating an inclusive clinical setting:

  • Identify as an ally: Offer an online directory of health care providers and administrative staff who have self-identified as LGBTQ trained, allies and/or “out.”
  • Host a workshop: Human Resources and/or hospital Diversity Committees may offer workshops for staff on how to provide LGBTQ-sensitive care. The Safe Zone Project is a free online resource that can be used to create curriculums on LGBTQ awareness.
  • Offer visual cues: In outward-facing materials, such as health education resources and marketing campaigns use imagery of same sex couples and families. Post signage near restrooms that welcome use based on gender identity.
  • Collect data: Integrate sexual orientation and gender identity demographic questions into the electronic health record. Patients have the right to opt in or out of self-identifying.
  • Get patient’s preferred name and pronouns: During the registration or medical history process, ask the patient for their preferred name/pronoun and document it in the electronic health record (note that the name may not match insurance and identification documents).
  • Be sensitive when discussing relationships. When asking about relationships, use terms such as “unmarried partner” and “spouse.” Ask the gender of sexual partners as well as gynecologic history (many transgender men retain a cervix, uterus, and breast tissue).

Resources:

-Dana Abbey, Community Engagement Coordinator