The New York Times recently published an article titled “A Transgender Learning Gap in the Emergency Room,” which calls for extra training for doctors to properly treat transgender patients.
The article, written by Helen Ouyang M.D. states that there is a gap in current medical training, specifically “how to provide optimal health care for transgender patients.” According to the author, transgender patients provide a multitude of issues for doctors with patients often being registered as the wrong sex, confusion from doctors when attempting to perform physical exams and the ever troublesome pronoun confusion that results in many doctors misgendering and possibly offending their patients.
Ouyang notes, “None of this, for the most part, is out of malice. Instead it’s because of our own ignorance — and stems from our lack of education and training on providing sensitive and evidence-based care for transgender patients.” Ouyang then cites a survey of medical schools in the U.S. and Canada which states that less than five hours in medical schools are dedicated to treating LGBT patients.
Ouyang states that she did receive training in treating lesbian, gay and bisexual patients when attending medical school over a decade ago but she was not instructed on how to treat transgender patients. Ouyang discussed how social media was used to share stories from transgender people about their medical experiences, “A Twitter hashtag #transhealthfail started trending in August of 2015, when transgender patients shared stories about their negative experiences with the health care system. Patients continue to use the hashtag today.”
According to Ouyang, change may soon be near, “Though still in the nascent stages, our medical education system may be on the cusp of changing. The Association of American Medical Colleges released its first medical education guidelines for L.G.B.T. health in November 2014. The University of Louisville School of Medicine became the national pilot site to implement a new model of physician training. The initiative, called the eQuality Project, was fully integrated into the curriculum this academic year.”
Richard Greene, the director of gender health education at the New York University School of Medicine stated, “I find young learners, like new medical students and new residents, are really excited to learn about transgender health. I’m really optimistic about the next generation,” he said. “Senior providers don’t know what they know.”
The article finishes by saying, “But the first step is simply recognizing our own deficiencies — and realizing that learning about transgender health is as pressing as mastering dosages of the newest cholesterol-lowering drug or memorizing the latest protocol for resuscitating a patient from cardiac arrest. “This is something that’s not going away,” Dr. Greene said. ‘In fact, it’s becoming more urgent.'”