At its November 2019 meeting, the Board invited Bex Peterson, nonbinary writer, student, and advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ peoples, to present to the Board guidance and best practices for addressing healthcare challenges faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Bex was also invited to submit a ReadLinks Guest Post to help share these best practices with pharmacy professionals.
— BC Pharmacists (@BCPharmacists) November 15, 2019
Below is a condensed version of Bex’s Guest Post. The full article is available in the following link:
- ReadLinks - Guest Post: Invisible Barriers - Providing an Inclusive Experience for 2SLGBTQ+ Patients
The population of Canadians who openly identify as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community is on the rise. According to the Province of British Columbia, 1 in 5 BC teenagers identify as something other than heterosexual.
However, 2SLGBTQ+ peoples still experience significant barriers with regards to health care access. In light of this, the health care community has been seeking to standardize inclusive policies and practices.
In June 2019, the Standing Committee on Health delivered a report to the House of Commons on the health of 2SLGBTQ+ communities in Canada including recommendations for best practices going forward. A key point shared through both reports is the necessity for training and education of health care providers regarding the needs of 2SLGBTQ+ patients.
How can Health Care Professionals Help Remove the Barriers to Care 2SLGBTQ+ Peoples Experience?
Familiarize Yourself with 2SLGBTQ+ Community Terms
Briefly, it’s important to understand some community terms. 2SLGBTQ+ is an umbrella term for people who identify as something other than heterosexual and/or cisgender.
Understand How 2SLGBTQ+ Identification can Impact Patient Safety and Experience
Understanding these terms is paramount for comprehending the barriers trans people in particular often come up against in health care spaces. Because of the nature of health care, providers often have access to information that can be uncomfortable or harmful for trans people, such as previous names and records of assigned gender at birth.
Healthcare workers should look to incorporate ongoing records of patient pronouns and names-in-use, rather than working off assumptions from medical records. As well, health care providers can “signal” an inclusive workplace by wearing nametags with their personal pronouns listed.
Understanding How 2SLGBTQ+ Stereotypes can Impact Patient Safety
2SLGBTQ+ people also often experience barriers with regards to assumptions. Though we have supposedly moved past identifying homosexuality as a mental illness, assumptions regarding gender and sexual minority “lifestyles” regardless of individual experiences can result in patient concerns going unheard in favour of whatever fits a stereotypical narrative.
Creating a Welcoming and Safe Environment
A welcome environment starts before a patient walks through the door. If we continue to see 2SLGBTQ+ people as aberrations from a norm, we cannot holistically shift to a workplace mindset that appropriately addresses community concerns. Any patient, any co-worker, any person one interacts with over the course of a day might be 2SLGBTQ+. It is recommended that discrimination policies are reviewed and, far more importantly, properly enforced in the spirit of ongoing education rather than punishment and policing.
Commit to Continuing to Learn
The 2SLGBTQ+ community is constantly growing and evolving. As such, 2SLGBTQ+ allyship is an ongoing learning process. Healthcare providers are encouraged to seek out self-education to remove the burden from patients. Gaps in knowledge are inevitable. However, “I don’t know” is not nearly as valuable a response to a knowledge gap as “I don’t know, but I will find out.”
Healthcare providers should treat each patient as an individual, regardless of sexual or gender identity.