Videos teach inclusion and caring for transgender patients

February 18, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

When Halley Crissman, M.D., M.P.H. and family planning fellow, first became a medical student at U-M, she saw the school’s non-discrimination policy on gender identity as a good start to making Michigan Medicine a safe, accepting place for transgender and non-binary patients and staff. However, in her mind, the policy alone was not enough.

It was clear after talking with her colleagues that many students and staff were struggling with how to talk to transgender patients and didn’t know how to navigate gender-related issues. And her own research soon proved that out statistically.

After collecting data from 600 front-line Michigan Medicine employees, 75 percent said that they received no formal education in caring for transgender individuals and 1-in-3 had experienced a situation at Michigan Medicine where they felt unprepared for a transgender patient or visitor. 

“Transgender and gender diverse people face numerous barriers to health care, including violence and discrimination while attempting to obtain care,” Crissman said. “I came into medicine with a passion for issues of health and gender, reproductive justice and caring for the LGBTQ+ community. As a learner, UMMS embraced my individual interests and showed commitment to fostering my growth and development in those areas.”  

Leading change

With the support of a mini grant from the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion (OHEI), Crissman created an introductory video, as well as five job-specific training videos designed specifically for certain job groups with frequent interactions with patients. The job groups included providers, RN-MA-tech-allied health professionals, security guest service specialists, call center staff and registration clerks. 

“This education is vital because it hasn’t been taught in the health professions schools until recently,” said Ruti Volk, who leads the Patient Education and Health Literacy Program. Volk uses the videos in her work as an educator. “Many of us who consider ourselves allies of the LGBTQ+ community still do not know the appropriate terminology for addressing and relating to transgender people and make mistakes despite our good intentions.”

These training videos are one step toward filling this educational void.

CareyLynn Flaugher agreed. Flaugher underwent the training as administrative manager for Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

“The clerk is often the first person that greets an incoming patient and can set the tone for a patient’s visit,” Flaugher said. “The transgender training focused on strategies that the clerk can use to respectfully obtain information about the patient’s preferred name, sex at birth, gender identity and pronouns and equips the clerk with skills to provide an inclusive environment for all patients and families.”

‘Safe, accepted and welcomed’

Crissman’s interest in developing training in transgender care became a personal campaign based on early observations from her days working in the Emergency Department.

There, Crissman said she noticed gender minority patients at times avoided or delayed regular care due to a fear of discrimination or lack of health insurance. This made them one of the minority groups most likely to receive care through the Emergency Department.

By improving care at all levels of Michigan Medicine, Crissman is aiming to remove such barriers for the transgender community.

“My hope is that all clinical staff at Michigan Medicine will be confident in providing care to and welcoming individuals who are transgender and gender diverse,” Crissman said. “In turn, I hope that gender minority individuals will feel safe, accepted and welcomed when seeking care or visiting Michigan Medicine, and will receive the excellent care that we strive to provide.”

The videos are now available on Mlearning and are mandatory for certain work groups and encouraged for all departments.