Everyone is Entitled to World Class Cancer Care

By Steve Blanchard - June 29, 2020

Recent headlines have focused on the need for health care equality among transgender patients. As politicians debate the importance of equal access to health care for all, Moffitt stands firm in its belief that everyone is entitled to world class cancer care. And that includes patients who are transgender.

“The transgender population has historically faced a lot of discrimination in the health care setting and in other places throughout the community,” said Cathy Grant, senior director of Moffitt Diversity. “This mistrust creates fear and a lack of confidence that they would be treated well when they do present to receive medical care. Lack of trust is a major barrier to care. The fear that they won’t be treated well upon arrival or they just won’t have a good experience is a foremost worry.”

Moffitt adopted policies nearly a decade ago that ensure transgender patients receive the same quality of care as any other patients who come through the doors. Those efforts have helped Moffitt maintain its designation as a Healthcare Equality Leader by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

But Moffitt doesn’t incorporate inclusive policies simply to be recognized by the country’s largest human rights advocacy entity. It does it to improve cancer prevention and care.

“When it comes to identifying a transgender patient, research suggests that having an opportunity to self-disclose gender identity information sensitively is ideal,” Grant said. “That means a patient should be presented with the questions about gender identity or sexual orientation as early as possible in the continuum of care. This ensures transgender patients are treated in culturally competent ways.”

Simple things like ensuring a patient is referred to by chosen name and personal pronouns can make a large impact on the culture of care. Accurate data collection also allows clinicians to address appropriate areas of relevancy such as hormone treatment adherence, fertility issues and the appropriate screenings available. Collecting gender identity and sexual orientation is becoming common practice in hospitals, and Moffitt continues to create an environment where patients are comfortable discussing and disclosing the appropriate information.

The LGBTQ+ community faces significant health disparities, including disproportionate rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug usage, and increased rates of depression and anxiety. Availability of better data will allow health care providers to better serve the individual needs of LGBTQ+ clients. 

“It is important to have a hospital workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of transgender patients,” Grant said. “Hospitals nationwide are working to make sure they are better prepared to meet the needs of the LGBTQ+ community in general.  At Moffitt, the strategies range from data collection, educating team members, to community outreach.”

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"It is important to have a hospital workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of transgender patients."

- Cathy Grant, Senior Director of Moffitt Diversity

Grant points out that while the education available to team members includes the importance of inclusion, it also covers the basics, such as the difference between sex, gender and sexuality.

“We want our team members to understand these concepts at a minimum,” she said. “We work to demystify that gender is a spectrum, and help our team members understand the nuances of caring for a transgender person versus a gay man, a lesbian or someone who is bisexual, for example.”

A transgender person’s internal sense of self is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Communication is critical as it values the person’s internal authentic sense of self, regardless of where they are on the path of transitioning and what is seen on the outside. Providing team members with the tools to recognize that, through the use of chosen name and personal pronouns of who someone feels themselves to be internally, is the beginning of an affirming interaction.

“This is where trust begins,” Grant said. “We want everyone who walks into the cancer center to have the best possible experience. Both our gender-conforming and nonconforming patients must be made comfortable. We support our team members by providing guidance on how to respond during uncomfortable situations and ensure that we are equitable with our policies and procedures. No matter who walks through the door, we want them to know we support inclusion for everyone.”

 

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