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Five ways for healthcare providers to improve the trans* patient experience: reflections from the Trans* Healthcare Panel

Nursing student Alexx Dixon co-hosted a panel discussion on trans* healthcare in November to mark Trans* Awareness Week. Among the speakers was Roy Litvin, Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing Education at the Faculty. Alexx and Roy reflect on the importance of the panel and how healthcare workers can become better allies and provide better care to trans* patients.

A trans pride flag drawn on pavement

As part of Trans Awareness Week, nursing student Alexx Dixon co-hosted a hybrid panel event in November, discussing topics relating to trans* healthcare and the trans* patient experience. The panel was organised by the KCLSU LGBT+ Network and was attended by an engaged audience both in-person at the Strand Campus and online.

The event welcomed presentations from a range of speakers, including Stewart O’Callaghan, Founder and Director of the charity Live Through This; Dr Anna Carlile from Goldsmith’s University of London; Dr Mari Greenfield, ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at King’s; Hannah Hirst from the University of Sheffield; and the Faculty’s own Roy Litvin, Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing Education.

Topics on the night ranged from the regulation of puberty blockers and issues facing trans* people with cancer, to the importance of extra-curricular activities for young trans* people and improving birthing care and mental health for LGBT+ pregnant and birthing people.

Trans* is a term used to describe a wide range of individuals who identify with a gender that is different from their assigned sex at birth and may be inclusive of all gender identities who transgress gender norms.

Advice for healthcare providers working with trans* people

  1. Avoid overly invasive or medically irrelevant questions. Focus on care and not personal curiosity. Many answers can be found through personal research or training opportunities.
  2. Never assume somebody's gender identity. If you are not sure how someone identifies, politely ask how they would like to be addressed/referred to.
  3. Transgender women usually use she/her pronouns, transgender men usually use he/him pronouns and non-binary people usually use they/them pronouns – but this isn’t always the case. It's okay to ask somebody for their pronouns if you're not sure.
  4. Always use the correct pronouns for a patient or service user even when not in their presence.
  5. No two trans* persons’ experiences are the same. Always treat patients as individuals and provide them with open, non-judgmental and inclusive care.

Furthermore, letting somebody know your pronouns when you introduce yourself can create a safe space for them to disclose theirs. This applies whether you are trans* or not. Remember, everyone has pronouns.

Alexx at trans pride London
Photo credit: Bex Wade

Alexx is a first-year Adult Nursing student who came to King’s with a background of working and campaigning with various LGBT+ charities and organisations, as well as experience of supporting the first ever London Trans Pride event. They feel strongly about making sure their future nursing colleagues are aware of the issues facing the trans* community within healthcare and beyond.

 
I’m very proud to have co-hosted this panel with Emilio, a fellow King’s student from the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy, and getting to facilitate these vital discussions with some really engaged students and staff. As future nurses and healthcare providers, we have to push not only for better understanding of trans* people and their needs, but also for removing the barriers within healthcare and making it an equitable space for all members of the LGBT+ community.– Alexx

Roy Litvin, Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing Education, was one of the speakers on the night, presenting his article, Issues affecting trans* young people: considerations for mental health nurses. Co-written with Dr Tommy Dickinson, Head of Department of Mental Health Nursing, and Gemma Trainor from Liverpool John Moores University, the article explores the growing body of research and best practice guidelines relating to the mental health and social needs of young people identifying as trans*. It aims specifically to support mental health nurses in enhancing their knowledge and awareness of the needs of these young people.

Roy said he was glad to see students engaging with the topic of trans* healthcare, as it is inevitably something they will come across in their future careers.

Nurses need to act as allies by developing a safe space for young people to support them and to enable them to explore their gender identity in a non-judgemental and supportive environment. Nursing students should be aware of the need to identify and challenge their own prejudices and biases and work to eliminate them. If this is not done, they will not be able to provide high quality and compassionate care to the trans* people they will inevitably meet as part of their work.– Roy Litvin

Research by Stonewall shows...

  • One in four trans people (24 per cent) fear discrimination from a healthcare service provider.
  • Two in five trans people (41 per cent) say healthcare staff lack understanding of specific trans health needs when accessing general healthcare services in the last year.
  • Seven per cent of trans people said they have been refused care because they are LGBT, while trying to access healthcare services in the last year.

Source: Stonewall | LGBT in Britain - Trans Report (2018)

Hosting the Trans Healthcare Panel was just the beginning for Alexx, who has their sights set on making the most of their time at King’s. In-between a busy schedule of lectures, coursework and clinical placements, they plan to work closely with fellow students and staff in the Faculty, as well as the LGBT+ Network, to make King’s even more inclusive.

King’s is a great place to study and learn, especially as there are so many opportunities to get involved in issues you care about. I’m about to start my first clinical placement, but I’m still planning to find time to engage with a range of societies and networks. I know I want to go into an area of nursing specifically to do with LGBT+ healthcare, so being involved with these events and groups is incredibly valuable to me.– Alexx

Alexx is already working with the LGBT+ Network to set up a similar panel during next year’s Trans Awareness Week, and is also involved in the planning of a full programme for LGBT+ History Month in February.

“There’s so much more for us to explore within this topic, so I hope next year’s panel will attract an even larger audience. Having these open conversations and giving people a space to learn can make a significant positive change to the trans patient experience, which is desperately needed.” – Alexx

Useful resources

If you’d like to get involved within King's, you can contact Alexx

King's internal LGBTQ+ allyship toolkit

Related news and projects from the Faculty:

Early research into LGBTQ midwifery care

ACCESSCare Research: better care for LGBT+ people

External resources

Mermaids UK

Gendered Intelligence

GIRES

Transgender Reading List

In this story

Roy Litvin

Roy Litvin

Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing Education

Tommy Dickinson

Tommy Dickinson

Head of Department, Mental Health Nursing and Professor of Nursing Education