General Going to the Emergency Room?
What you can do to improve your healthcare experience
Unfortunately, many transgender and gender diverse people are mistreated and even neglected by members of the healthcare profession because of ignorance and transphobia on the part of healthcare providers. The Cultural Competency Committee (CCC), a subcommittee of Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT, www.transtexas.org) formed in response to a need to educate healthcare workers about transgender people. We hope this education process will help them respond to transgender people's health needs in a more informed, sensitive, and competent manner. One of the audiences the CCC is currently targeting is emergency first responders. As such, we have provided training to emergency room nurses, doctors, and social workers and we plan to address EMT workers and the police force in the near future.
An important thing we've learned from our dialog with emergency room personnel is that there are things that we can do to improve the healthcare experience. Here are a couple things you might do to ensure the best possible medical attention.
The ER nurses who staff the triage desk (where you sign in) encourage transgender people to disclose their status to them, as this can be relevant information for diagnosing what is wrong. Disclosing is understandably a scary and intimidating process for many of us. It is your right to decide when you want to disclose your transgender status and when you do not. We do not want to make that decision for you; however, we do encourage you to disclose to the ER triage nurse especially because it is relevant to receiving quality emergency care. For example, abdominal pains are assessed and treated differently depending on your internal sex organs. The nurses at Brackenridge impressed upon us that they will do their best to be sensitive and discreet if you do tell them you are a transgender person.
Ask for a Patient Advocate
Some hospitals have a patient advocate who will work with you to ensure you are being treated fairly and adequately. If you feel that you are not being given proper medical treatment, you can request a meeting with a patient advocate. The information for the patient advocacy programs for Austin-area hospitals can be found below.
File a complaint
Another important tool to combat unfair or poor treatment is the hospital complaint process. During or after your hospital visit, you can file a grievance telling your story. It is a hospital's ethical duty to investigate these complaints. Filing a complaint could improve both your own healthcare experience and the experiences of other transgender people. The information for the complaint procedures for Austin-area hospitals can be found below.
St. David's Medical Centers
(includes North Austin Medical Center, St. David's, Round Rock Medical Center, and South Austin Medical Center)
Austin State Hospital
Many thanks to our friend Cati Connell for researching and writing this article!