NYC Hospitals Adopt LGBT Competency Training

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com May 25 2011 8:35 AM ET

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., the nation’s largest urban health care agency, serving 1.3 million patients, will adopt cultural competency training for staff members to help improve the health of LGBT people.

The launch of the mandatory employee training program will be announced Wednesday by HHC president Alan D. Aviles, deputy mayor Linda Gibbs and National LGBT Cancer Network executive director Liz Margolies. Dozens of elected officials, community leaders, patients, and hospital staff members are expected to attend the announcement at Bellevue Hospital, which is to include a screening of the new training video “To Treat Me, You Have to Know Who I Am.”

The 10-minute video, produced in collaboration with the National LGBT Cancer Network, is part of a curriculum that will reach 38,000 physicians, nurses, technicians, administrators, and support services staff at new employee orientations, annual in-service programs, and upcoming employee town hall meetings.

According to a news release, “The HHC training curriculum will promote staff awareness about sexual and gender identity and increased health risks among LGBT people; ensure healthcare providers are better equipped to make the most accurate assessments and appropriate referrals; and help increase adherence to treatment among LGBT patients. Additionally, the training underscores how vital it is for health care providers to show openness, use inclusive language, welcome and normalize individual’s disclosures of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and utilize the knowledge they gain from each and every patient to be able to provide patient-centered care.”

Margolies added, “This groundbreaking curriculum offers concrete simple recommendations for change. It teaches providers how to welcome ‘the whole person’ into the facility, including their gender identity and sexual orientation. It teaches them how to speak respectfully to LGBT patients, understand their increased health risks and welcome their chosen families into treatment.”

The training curriculum responds to a documented need for increased cultural competence among health care providers that serve LGBT patients. Last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a list of activities and policy recommendations for LGBT health improvements that included the need for health care competency training. In March an Institute of Medicine report documented that LGBT populations have unique health needs and face health disparities that clinicians are poorly equipped to address, with more research and education required. The Joint Commission, which accredits the country’s hospitals, this year will begin to require hospitals to demonstrate how they are responding to the needs of LGBT patients. Last year President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to extend hospital visitation rights to all LGBT individuals.

Based on different estimates of the LGBT population in New York, HHC serves from 49,000 to 98,000 LGBT people every year in its public hospitals and community health centers. The system, which serves some 450,000 uninsured city residents, already has policies and practices in place to help serve LGBT patients, governing such matters as nondiscrimination, hospital visitation, advance directives, and inpatient room assignment.