On Sept. 30, BWHers gathered to learn more about an important issue for patients, families, clinicians and staff: best practices for creating a welcoming environment for BWH’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients.
BWHers filled the seats in Bornstein Amphitheater, and more than 100 employees or groups of employees tuned in via webcast for the event, which was called “Caring for Our LGBT Patients: A Forum for Clinicians, Staff and Patients.” It was co-sponsored by the BWH/BWFH LGBT & Allies Employee Resource Group, BWH Center for Patients and Families, BWH and BWFH Public Affairs, and Nursing and Patient Care Services’ Diversity & Inclusiveness Committee.
“As a hospital community, we take tremendous pride in providing the highest quality patient-centered care,” said BWH President Betsy Nabel, MD, in her opening remarks. “We know to do this, we must understand the patients we serve, their diverse perspectives, their needs and their concerns. Our patients should feel known, welcomed and cared for by all of us, but perhaps most importantly, by their clinicians. This is why diversity of age and gender, of culture, race and nationality, of sexual orientation, is so important to us and to health care in general.”
For the next hour, attendees heard from patient Kevin Benisvy and his provider Juan Jaime de Zengotita, MD, medical director at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center (SJPHC); double-arm transplant candidate Will Lautzenheiser and Simon Talbot, MD, director of Upper Extremity Transplantation; and Michele Simon, whose wife, Amy, gave birth to their twin daughters at BWH. Maureen Fagan, DNP, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC, executive director, BWH Center for Patients and Families, moderated the event.
“I am glad to see so many pride flags on your badges,” said Lautzenheiser, looking at attendees. “It is incredible.”
Lautzenheiser, Benisvy and Simon recounted stories of times when they felt extremely welcomed at BWH and experienced wonderful care. They also shared a few negative experiences, such as when Simon was continuously ignored by a care provider while at BWH with her wife following an admission to rule out pre-term labor.
Benisvy asked clinicians not to make assumptions about LGBT patients or where transgender patients are in their transition, as well as to own up to any mistakes they may make.
De Zengotita emphasized the need for staff training around LGBT issues and experiences, as his team has undergone at SJPHC. Talbot encouraged attendees to keep at the forefront of every interaction of care the idea of treating people with respect and dignity.
“Make it simple,” added Simon. “Forget about the labels. You’re all here to help people; why judge them?”