Pride Practice | Tips for Nurses Caring for Transgender Patients

Boys wear blue, and girls wear pink. Boys play with trucks, and girls play with dolls. Men wear cologne, and women wear perfume.

But sometimes, they don’t.

To be transgender means to identify more with the opposite gender of which you were born. Transgender people are often misunderstood, but that simple definition seems easy enough to understand, right? However, the discrimination transgender people face is often complex, and it affects everything from how they’re treated in the grocery store to whether or not they have access to healthcare. Across the United States, awareness of transgender people is growing, and there’s a widespread effort to improve healthcare quality and access for transgender patients. Here are some quick facts about disparities in nursing care for transgender patients and then seven tips for nurses caring for transgender patients.

Disparities in Nursing Care for Transgender Patients: Quick Facts

Here are a few quick facts about disparities that exist in nursing care for transgender patients.

  • Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender patients report being refused care, being discriminated against while receiving care and there being a lack of appropriate care available.
  • An estimated 48 percent of transgender individuals have delayed or avoided medical care due to fears of discrimination from healthcare workers.
  • There’s a lack of education in the healthcare industry when it comes to LGBT care, according to a 2010 survey that suggests medical schools spend last than five hours on LGBT healthcare training.

So, as a nurse, how can you improve nursing care for transgender patients? Here are seven tips for caring for transgender patients!

Seven Tips for Caring for Transgender Patients

caring for transgender patients

1. Educate yourself

The first thing you can do to improve caring for transgender patients is to educate yourself on who they are and what unique healthcare needs they have. There’s plenty of resources out there for you to do this on your own time, such as the National LGBT Health Education Center.

2. Self-reflect

Whether you have first-hand experience with a transgender patient or you’ve simply just educated on yourself on the subject, take time to self-reflect. Do you have any bias toward these patients or additional questions that you would like answered? Do you feel like you have the professional knowledge or experience to provide adequate care to them, and if not, how can you get there?

3. Set aside your fears

Sometimes we’re afraid of things that we don’t know. More than that, we’re afraid to say something wrong or offend someone. If you have good intentions and are accepting of all people, set aside your fears. Even if you do say the wrong thing or offend someone, your genuine sincerity and desire to be kind will show through and your mistake can quickly be amended.

4. Ask questions

This tip for caring for transgender patients ties directly with the one above – don’t be afraid to ask questions. In fact, pulling some relevant transgender-related questions into your already existing patient interview process can help to make transgender patients feel more included. This may be up to the discretion of the administration where you work, but consider questions such as:

  • “What is your current gender identity? (Check ALL that apply): Male, Female, Transgender Male/Trans Man/FTM, Transgender Female/Trans Woman/MTF, Genderqueer, Additional Category (please specify), and Decline to Answer.”
  • “What sex were you assigned at birth? (Check one): Male, Female, or Decline to Answer.”
  • “What pronouns do you prefer? (Open-ended question.)”

5. Pronoun properly

If you choose to ask the questions above, make sure you pay attention to the answers. Just because someone looks one gender does not mean that they don’t identify with the opposite. Therefore, don’t call he a she and vice versa, but be aware of your patient’s preferences.

6. Be respectful

The most obvious tip for caring for transgender patients – be respectful. Know that everyone is different, and what one patient prefers another will hate. If you educate yourself, ask the right questions and listen kindly, your efforts will go a long way in closing the gap of disparities in LGBT healthcare treatment.

7. Admit you’re wrong

If you find a patient that you simply aren’t educated enough to care for, say so. Don’t string that patient along or continue to put both of you in uncomfortable or unsuccessful situations just to preserve your pride. If you know there’s another nurse available who’s better suited to care for transgender patients, let them.

Do you have transgender patients? Where are some additional tips you would give for caring for transgender patients? Share with us in the comments below!


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Author: Lenay Ruhl

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  1. Agree with you, we should treat transgender patients just like others. Thanks for sharing interesting opinions!

  2. If I have a transgender, that identifies as a female, but still has male genitals, do we still have to put her in with a male patient, in skilled nursing? Of can she go in a room with a female patient? Or be given a private room? Transgender are a protected class and we want to make them as comfortable as possible. But I don’t know how to properly inform our staff under the new guidelines in regards to their rights, when it comes to having to share a room when in a skilled nursing facility.

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