LGBTQ healthcare equality: How to become a leader

Staff at the two community hospitals in the El Camino Health system strive to help all patients heal, relieve suffering and advance wellness.

The emphasis is on “all” patients, with the goal to be inclusive and respectful of everyone seeking healthcare, said Patricia DeMellopine, MSN, RN, CNS, nursing educator in Mental Health and Addiction Services at El Camino Health in Mountain View, Calif. DeMellopine spoke last year at the American Nurses Credentialing Center National Magnet Conference about how El Camino became a leader in LGBTQ healthcare equality.

El Camino hospitals in Mountain View and in Los Gatos, Calif., have achieved the Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equality Index LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader designation since 2016. That means each year the hospitals achieved a score of 100 in adopting LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices. While 406 U.S. healthcare organizations with 100 or more employees achieved the leadership designation in 2019 and 81 of those were in California, no facilities in Idaho, Wyoming or Montana have the designation. Many states have only one or two facilities with the HEI leadership designation.

“We want to support our community so they know they can use us as a resource and trust us with care,” DeMellopine said. “Some populations may not access care. They may not feel welcomed. They might not feel someone will be compassionate toward them.”

One of those populations is the LGBTQ community. Reports from Healthy People 2020 and Institute of Medicine note glaring disparities in LGBTQ healthcare (often referred to as LGBT) community. Among those: LGBT youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide; men who have sex with other men account for 64% of newly diagnosed HIV cases; isolation, a shortage of social services and a lack of culturally competent providers are barriers for elderly LGBT people who might otherwise seek healthcare; and people in the LGBT community have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug use.

El Camino’s LGBTQ healthcare journey

El Camino employees formed a committee in 2015 charged with looking at the issue of how to provide equitable care to the LGBTQ community. “That committee quickly developed a charter membership that was available to all staff and employees, with voluntary attendance,” she said.

DeMellopine, who is on the committee, and colleagues started by setting out to meet HEI criteria that address nondiscrimination and staff training, patient services support, employee benefits and policies, and patient and community engagement. Using the criteria as their framework, they began looking at how the hospitals perform and where they need to make improvements.

“We don’t have a specific service line, so we’re not doing this because we’re trying to start a service line for gender-affirming surgeries or a special clinic that’s separate from everything else.” DeMellopine said. “This is all integration for us.”

The process starts with awareness about how even seemingly small biases can undermine equitable care. “Once you have awareness, then the opportunities start showing up,” she said.

One of the first changes the hospital made was on the name bands staff give parents …read more

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