A growing body of research shows that members of the LGBTQ community tend to have poorer health outcomes. As part of its mission to reduce health disparities in South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina is focusing more on providing culturally competent care to this community as well as on internal review, as a employer, how to make sure all staff feel comfortable. .
Chase Glenn, who was hired last spring as MUSC’s first director of LGBTQ + health services and corporate resources, is an important part of this update, but he will be the first to say that many more. on campus are passionate about this issue and are leading efforts in their fields.
The Culturally Appropriate Care Workshop in October is one example. Now in its fourth year, the 2021 edition has focused on LGBTQ issues.
Co-Chair Cristina Reyes Smith, OTD, Assistant Professor at the College of Health Professions, noted that during last year’s workshop, which focused on mental health issues, the panel on LGBTQ mental health issues had aroused such interest and enthusiasm that she observed at the time that an entire workshop dedicated to LGBTQ issues was needed.
It happened this year. Co-Chair Latecia Abraham-Hilaire, DHA, Associate Professor of Academic Affairs in the Public Information and Community Outreach Department at MUSC Libraries, said it was wonderful to see the mix of students, faculty, members of the community and even representatives of other local colleges. at the workshop, which was held this year in a hybrid in-person / virtual format.
Abraham-Hilaire moderated a panel of local advocates, and other panels focused on transgender needs, an inclusive workforce and program gaps and included a keynote address by Jack Turban, MD, senior researcher in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“I think the bottom line is that the LGBTQIA + community absolutely has to keep hope,” said Abraham-Hilaire. “We really wanted to give hope to this community and let them know that they are not alone in this fight for equality.
Reyes Smith said she had noted an educational gap related to LGBTQ issues for some time, not only at MUSC but nationally.
“Personally, I have friends and relatives who identify with the community, and so being able to help provide a more inclusive campus and a more inclusive community is also important to me,” she said.
She said being an inclusive campus goes beyond caring for LGBTQ patients. Some students and faculty are also part of the community, and it can be difficult for them to know if it is safe to hang out with colleagues or patients. In fact, a small survey of workshop participants indicated that a number of them had not left their university programs or their work environment.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Reyes Smith.
Abraham-Hilaire and Reyes Smith both said the workshop really brought home the importance of using a person’s personal pronouns.
Glenn said pronouns are an example of how providers can build or break trust with LGBTQ patients, even if they come forward with an issue unrelated to sexuality or gender – a broken leg, for example. .
“If it’s about a broken leg and you’re cheating on someone, and you call them by a name they very clearly don’t use, you start – well, you start on the wrong foot. “, did he declare. “And then right off the bat you have to fix that kind of interaction and recover. So part of that is just really basic respect and compassion when it comes to how we interact with patients. ”
During his six months at MUSC, Glenn learned what is already in place in the statewide MUSC system and worked on long-term goals that date back to when he was executive director. of the Alliance for Full Acceptance. These include the return of MUSC Health to the Human Rights Campaign’s Health Care Equality Index and the inclusion of data on sexual orientation and gender in Epic, MUSC’s electronic health record system. Health.
“I think the bottom line here is that we want to be really thoughtful about how we implement these changes, and we want to prepare our care team members to feel comfortable. and being able to have positive interactions with patients, ”said Glenn. “Because at the end of the day we can capture the information, but we could do it in a way that isn’t a positive experience for the healthcare team member or the patient, right?” ? So we want to make sure we put that in place to be successful. ”
“The leadership made it clear that participating in the Healthcare Equality Index is not necessarily certification. It is not a question of being able to put a badge on our website. It’s really about taking us on this journey to improve care and our work with LGBTQ people. ”
Glenn also submitted a request to include MUSC Health in the Health Care Equality Index. The index, which ranks facilities based on a range of policies and procedures related to patients, employees, visitors and community engagement, offers a roadmap for some areas that MUSC could still work on, Glenn said. Overall, however, he is pleased with the seriousness with which hospital officials take this issue.
“The leadership made it clear that participating in the Healthcare Equality Index is not necessarily certification. It is not a question of being able to put a badge on our website. It’s really about taking us on this journey to improve care and our work with LGBTQ people, ”said Glenn.
Glenn is also awaiting a report from the Fenway Institute’s National LGBTQIA + Health Education Center, which will develop cultural competency training tailored to the needs of MUSC, with the ultimate goal of making LGBTQ patients comfortable. interact with anyone on campus, rather than being referred to providers known to be LGBTQ-friendly.
The College of Health Professions Physician Assistant Program has worked on this so that all of its graduates have training in working with people from diverse backgrounds, said Emily Douglas, PA, instructor in the Division of Assistant Studies. medical.
This year, she said, the PA program began teaching students in the history and physical examination skills class to ask questions about pronouns and use non-sexist language. The PA program is also developing a mandatory cultural competency course, which will include lessons on LGBTQ issues.
Douglas asked all of his students to attend the Culturally Appropriate Care workshop and write a reflection afterwards. Many students said they never thought about the need to create a safe space in a clinical environment or how to do it, she said.
“It was something that a lot of students were really talking about, never thinking about it before, but something that they are going to incorporate into their future practice,” she said. “So it was really, really wonderful to see them have that ‘aha! ” moment.”
Hope this “aha!” moment will be replicated statewide this spring, Glenn said. The Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is planning a virtual conference on LGBTQ healthcare on April 7-8 targeting healthcare providers and students across South Carolina.
More information about the conference will be posted on the DCI website in the coming months. Glenn said he believes students and providers from all organizations are eager to participate in this type of educational opportunity.
“LGBTQ identity is an important part of a person’s health profile and knowing this information can actually impact the care they receive,” said Glenn. “If we are truly committed to providing the highest quality care and meeting patients where they are, then this is an important part of that process. ”