Beyond Binary: How We're Improving Care for Our Transgender Patients

The transgender community experiences serious health care disparities. We're working to change that.

From the time he learned to speak, Leslie’s son Sam knew that his mind and his anatomy did not match. He had been assigned female at birth, but inside he knew he was a boy.

As Leslie and her son navigated the health care system, they encountered what many transgender patients experience each day: mistreatment, discrimination, disrespect and a lack of knowledge about their unique needs.

Across the country, the transgender community faces significant health care disparities. In fact, 1 in 10 transgender people has been denied medical care at some point due to their gender identity, according to the Rainbow Health Initiative, a Minnesota-based advocacy group working to improve the health of LGBTQ individuals.

At Fairview, we know we can—and must—do better for our transgender patients. While we have providers who specialize in caring for LGBTQ patients, we’re working to educate our entire system through intensive in-person training and mandatory online sessions. 

“We really need to walk the talk for our transgender patients,” says Laura Reed, Fairview’s Chief Nursing Executive and president of Fairview hospitals. “When we think about the two main things that drive us at Fairview–respect for people and continuously improving–that’s what we need to bring to our patients every day, in every interaction.”

Earning trust through culturally competent care

Fairview recently hosted a Transgender Health Care Summit for providers and staff. 

In collaboration with the Rainbow Health Initiative, we welcomed experts from across the Twin Cities to share their insight. Speakers took on topics such as primary care needs of transgender patients, gender care throughout a patient’s lifespan and the mental health of transgender youth. 

The summit also featured a panel discussion, with Leslie and others sharing their health care experiences and offering their own ideas on how to improve care for transgender patients.

Leslie talked about her son being required to undergo a pregnancy test and overhearing the provider joking about it to a colleague. Other panelists described being asked inappropriate questions and interacting with providers who were not prepared to perform necessary tests and procedures. Without respectful and informed people in clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals, transgender patients can be reluctant to even seek care.

“We have to build trust,” says Dylan Flunker, research and policy manager at the Rainbow Health Initiative. “If we’re not attuned to something, that’s where things can go culturally wrong and that’s why we have these health disparities.”

Educating all 32,000

While more than 170 Fairview, HealthEast, Ebenezer, PreferredOne and University of Minnesota Physicians providers and staff attended the summit, our goal is to ensure that each of our 32,000 employees has the tools to make our transgender patients feel safe, welcome and heard.

In 2017, we created an online training for all employees on how to provide high-quality care to transgender and gender non-conforming patients. The training addresses the spectrum of gender identity, correct language, appropriate behavior and more.

"Working in health care, it's important that we never stop learning about and exploring better ways to serve the people who trust us with their care," says Mitch Nemetz, Fairview's vice president of organizational development and learning. "Our industry is moving in the right direction when it comes to transgender health care, but we all still have a long way to go. We want Fairview to be leading the charge."

For a list of providers who specialize in caring for LGBTQ patients, click here. To make an appointment with a Fairview provider, call 855-FAIRVIEW or request an appointment online.

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