By: Hannah Heitz
As a physician in his late fifties described: “They did not talk about that stuff when I was in medical school." It was simply not a topic of conversation in medical schools; discussions around sexuality were generally avoided. This lack of training has resulted in care that can be culturally insensitive, particularly among older doctors. Recently, there has been a shift to increase awareness and bring a focus toward increasing cultural awareness in care across all domains of identity. There is no clear consensus in research on whether improved cultural awareness translates to measurably better care, but there have certainly been no negative effects.
The study noted above also reports that the greatest challenges faced in providing transgender care include, “embarrassment, lack of adequate training, and fear of offending patients.” These challenges should not be ignored and are not insurmountable. Through education and discussion, physicians can develop an increased awareness and comfort level in discussing sexual history and sexual identity—which will ultimately lead to more culturally aware, compassionate, and just care.
2: Renzaho, A. M. N., Romios, P., Crock, C., & Sønderlund, A. L. (2013). The effectiveness of cultural competence programs in ethnic minority patient-centered health care—a systematic review of the literature. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 25(3), 261-269.