Oregon health system the first in U.S. to offer transgender health program

As more transgender people come out, hospitals are adjusting to the new social norms that come with the change. One Portland hospital is leading this charge with a program designed to make transgender patients feel more welcome in what typically is an intimidating environment, according to an article in The Oregonian.

Providers are often untrained in the medical needs of transgender patients, and sensitivity training is still lacking in the medical field.

So Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in early 2015 decided to revolutionize the care it provides to transgender patients and hired Amy Penkin to serve as coordinator for its Transgender Health Program, the first of its kind in the United States. 

When Penkin began the program, only a handful of the 15,000 employees in the OHSU system had experience dealing with transgender patients, according to The Oregonian. Through much of 2014, software engineers customized patient records software to allow fields that document his or her preferred name, biological sex and gender identity, which are better directives for receptionists, according to the article.

It wasn't easy, Penkin said, and some of the new demarcations were confusing. She spent time with the receptionists to help them better understand the system and why it was in place, offering anecdotes. In one instance, a transmale patient she had assisted was not treated with proper care by the receptionist, even in her presence.

But she has made progress, according to the article. By the end of last year, she trained more than 2,000 employees and worked with 500 patients and their doctors. Penkin also initiated a plan to better label and map unisex bathroom stalls, And she has met with other providers in Oregon to help them with their own programs for transgender patients.

The work, Penkins told the publication, can be overwhelming. "We have this broad vision and mission to improve the health and wellbeing of all transgender Oregonians, and we have an infrastructure of ... me," she said.

To learn more:
- read The Oregonian article