Colby-Sawyer Students and Faculty Attend "Healthcare for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Patient Populations" Conference

Transgender people report that their greatest barrier to adequate healthcare is lack of access to providers with sufficient knowledge of transgender health issues, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In an effort to bridge that knowledge gap, Colby-Sawyer College and Dartmouth Health cosponsored a daylong conference titled “Healthcare for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Patient Populations” in early November in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

The conference explored the key aspects of gender-affirming care and the challenges faced by transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) patient populations. Areas of focus included identifying societal issues affecting TDG patients’ healthcare experiences, gaining insights into the roles of healthcare professionals in a team-based approach to caring for TGD patients and discussing the support structures needed to address these challenges.

“Transgender and gender-diverse patients have been the recipients of substandard care in healthcare environments,” Deborah Hastings, former director of nursing professional and joint accreditation at Dartmouth Health, said. “They have experienced disrespect and even harassment from healthcare professionals who were supposed to be helpful yet lacked understanding of the specific needs of this patient population.”

The 185 conference attendees included students and faculty from Colby-Sawyer College, Rivier University and River Valley Community College, as well as healthcare workers and administrators from around the region, including Dartmouth Health and Dartmouth College, the University of Vermont Medical Center, Concord Hospital, the Visiting Nurse Association and rural primary care locations. The conference served as a valuable learning opportunity, allowing students and healthcare providers to listen and collaborate on a pressing topic in healthcare.

“The students were able to hear from an expert panel and individuals in the transgender and gender-diverse patient populations on their healthcare experiences,” said Colby-Sawyer College Dean of the School of Nursing & Health Sciences and Director of Clinical Partnerships Kevin Finn. “The content of the conference is not something that we fully address in our curriculum so for them to interact in this environment was a truly outstanding learning experience.”

The event provided key takeaways for attendees at every level of healthcare experience, such as the importance of using a person’s asserted name and pronouns, and also enhanced participants’ general awareness of key terms in gender-affirming care, according to Hastings. She added that an interprofessional team-based approach was emphasized to better address the healthcare needs as well as the general societal supports and resources necessary for members of the TGD community.