The current version of our LGBT Welcoming Toolkit aims to help the Brigham Health primary care practices meet the needs of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients by delivering high quality, patient-centered care. Generally speaking, one in twenty patients identifies as L, G, B or T. Do you consider your practice particularly welcoming to members of the LGBT community?
In this toolkit you will find information about our LGBT & Allies Employee Resource Group, a glossary of terms, a checklist to gauge just how welcoming and inclusive your practice might be, information about ways to signal to LGBT patients that you want to meet their needs, tips on gathering information about sexual orientation and gender identity from patients and storing that information in eCare, and common stumbling blocks or misconceptions that even those with the best of intentions may unconsciously commit or have. We also point you to other resources about LGBT health and care for LGBT patients.
There are many ways Brigham Health staff help foster a positive, welcoming environment for all patients. The group offers the following tips on how care providers can ensure they are creating a safe, welcoming space for these patients. The statements in bold are from The Joint Commission’s Field Guide on “Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence and Patient- and Family-Centered Care for the LGBT Community.”
Listen to and reflect patients’ choice of language when they describe their own sexual orientation and gender identity and how they refer to their relationship or partner. Referring to a significant other as a “husband,” “wife” or “partner” after the patient has used such language can contribute to a welcoming environment.
Refrain from making assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity based on appearance. If you make a mistake, apologize. For example, you could say, “I’m sorry I didn’t get that right. Can you please tell me again, so I can make sure that I have the correct information?” Ask patients how they would like to be addressed, what name they would like to be called and which pronoun is appropriate.
Be aware of misconceptions, bias, stereotypes and other communication barriers. Making assumptions about a patient’s sexuality can put him or her on the spot to “come out” to you. Use neutral language when asking questions and take your lead from the individual person.
Facilitate disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity, but be aware that disclosure or “coming out” is an individual process. It’s not easy to “come out” all the time. You can help create a safe environment by asking for information pertinent to medical care only, as you would with any other patient.