One for all? Are physicians prepared to deliver care to the LGBTQIA+ community?

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(Jafar Ahmed, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Katherine Candelario, a fourth-year medical student at O&M Medical School in the Dominican Republic. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In society, standing out can cause quite a ruckus, especially when part of the very essence of who you are, runs against the beliefs of many individuals worldwide. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have struggled to find their voice over time, not only from a social standpoint, but also in healthcare. 56 percent of LGBTQIA+ individuals have felt discriminated against while seeking medical attention, either because medical intake forms don’t provide proper gender designation or there is an overt refusal of health services or information by the provider. (1)

As medical students, we are taught to cater to all populations, no matter the gender, their beliefs, race or preferences. This doesn’t only involve providing medical attention to the person seeking it, it includes having basic knowledge about the community and their wants and needs regarding health. In a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, more than 50 percent of the participants reported having to explain aspects of LGBTQIA+ health necessities to the physician or nurse providing care. This demonstrates that there is a gap in knowledge, which can ultimately lead to less access of healthcare by members of the LGBTQIA+ community in order to avoid these situations. (1)

The same survey previously mentioned also found that one in every four LGBTQIA+ members have reported encountering some form of medical discrimination in the last year alone. As a result of the aforementioned forms of disregard for this population, LGBTQIA+ members tend to put off seeking healthcare, in order to avoid all of these situations. (2)

As a medical student, I believe there are ways we can make improvements that will, in the long run, allow for a more inclusive form of healthcare. Customizing patient intake forms or consulting the “Guidelines of Care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Patients”, which was created by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, are two simple but very effective ways to show members of the LGBTQIA+ community that we are here to help them, with no discrimination in mind, whatsoever.

Overall, I would encourage all medical students and current doctors, all over the world, to learn the basics about the LGBTQIA+ community, and how we can all offer the best form of healthcare to them. Sometimes just doing small and simple things, such as using the correct pronouns can create a more comfortable environment for patients and ultimately help build a better, more concrete doctor-patient relationship, which benefits everyone when providing healthcare. I believe there is still a long way to go before dignified medical care that is completely non-discriminatory is offered, but through minor changes, we can make a bid difference.

References

  1. New report reveals rampant discrimination against transgender people by health providers, high HIV rates and widespread lack of access to necessary care – National LGBTQ Task Force [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jun 28]. Available from: https://www.thetaskforce.org/new-report-reveals-rampant-discrimination-against-transgender-people-by-health-providers-high-hiv-rates-and-widespread-lack-of-access-to-necessary-care-2/
  2. “Discrimination is doing its dirty work”: a new survey looks at the effects of anti-LGBTQ hate – Vox [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jun 28]. Available from: https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/5/2/15505132/lgbtq-discrimination-cap-survey
  3. Creating an LGBTQ-friendly practice | American Medical Association [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jun 28]. Available from: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/population-care/creating-lgbtq-friendly-practice

About the author

Katherine Candelario is a fourth-year medical student at O&M Medical School in the Dominican Republic. In 2015, she joined the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations and has served as a Local Coordinator of the Standing Committee on Public Health as well as editor/translator for the publication support division (PSD) and coordinator of a weekly newsletter for IFMSA-Dominican Republic. She has shared her experiences in health as a medical student through five publications in the IFMSA Medical Student International. She also participates in community service activities of other local and international organizations in the Dominican Republic.

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