Emergency room doctors lack training, education to care for transgender patients

Emergency room doctor physician stethoscope scrubs Getty/gordonsaunders
Care gaps continue to persist for transgender patients, but they are amplified in hospital emergency rooms, writes one ER doctor. (Getty/gordonsaunders)

Care gaps continue to persist for transgender patients, but they are amplified in hospital emergency rooms, writes an ER doctor.

Problems abound in the ER, often from the moment patients are registered, when they are listed as the wrong gender at triage. Clinicians may call them “he/she" or “they” during rounds. And because few private rooms are available, many patients are inappropriately grouped by gender.

These mistakes are not due to malice, Helen Ouyang, M.D., an emergency physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, writes in The New York Times. Rather, it’s because most clinicians never had medical education and training on how to provide sensitive and evidence-based care for transgender patients. This not only means knowledge about clinical aspects of care, but also humanistic care.

RELATED: Transgender doctor sheds light on patient experience

The first step, Ouyang writes, is for ER clinicians to recognize their own deficiencies and that learning about transgender health is as important as learning about the latest drugs or protocols for cardiac care.

Indeed, the demand for transgender medical care is growing. The clinics that currently provide care for transgender youth can’t keep up with the demand, FierceHealthcare previously reported. And there are an estimated 1.4 million adults in the U.S. who identify as transgender, according to a 2016 report (PDF) by the Williams Institute.

Although medical schools are beginning to incorporate trans care into their curricula, Ouyang says that clinicians who never received training can access resources from the National LGBT Health Education Center, the University of California-San Francisco and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to learn about providing care to the LGBT community.

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