Swedish’s program expands LGBTQIA+ healthcare in the Puget Sound region.
Pride month is a time of joy, celebration, freedom and remembrance. We revel in the advances of our LGBTQIA+ community, support each other in times of need and continue the work of education and growth, so that we can continue in our mission of providing the right care and the right time to every patient.
In 2020, Swedish explored the opportunity of expanding access to LGBTQIA+ healthcare throughout the local community and the broader region. Leadership, caregivers and community partners engaged in broad ranging conversations and clear-eyed assessments around services and areas of focus. In October 2021, this exploratory process bore an integrated program under Swedish’s Office of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OHEDI) that has established Swedish as a supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Puget Sound region and Washington state as well as a regional leader in providing and coordinating LGBTQIA+ healthcare.
Guided by a four-pillar approach developed through conversations with our community LGBTQIA+ leaders, patients and our caregivers, Swedish’s LGBTQI+ program is prioritizing clinical support and education for our caregivers, improvements in data gathering and reporting, culture change and scaling up care coordination for our LGBTQIA+ communities. Through this approach, we hope to grow our sites to provide inclusive environments staffed by knowledgeable caregivers and clinicians.
“We are grateful to be in partnership and collaboration with other programs at other healthcare institutions in the Puget Sound region. Swedish’s approach is one model to provide community-informed healthcare to our LGBTQIA+ community which other healthcare systems are inquiring about to further support the care our patients need and deserve. Furthermore, as a secular affiliate within the Providence system, we have the opportunity to serve as a guide, subject matter expert and resource so we may better serve our LGBTQIA+ community across the Puget Sound region,” says Kevin Wang (he/him/his), M.D., Medical Director of Swedish’s LGBTQI+ program. “This will allow patients to stay with their primary care providers at their medical homes while giving them access to specialists who may support their patients in their care.”
Kevin Wang (he/him/his), M.D., Medical Director of Swedish’s LGBTQI+ program
Knowledge is Power
With more than 28 states introducing anti-LGBTQ bills in local legislatures and another eight passing the same kinds of bills into law, Vinny Fox (they/them/theirs), a Swedish LGBTQIA+ education program coordinator, says the program’s importance plays out daily in the experience of patients seeking appropriate healthcare as well as through Swedish caregivers standing against the rising national tide of attacks on the LGBTQ community, and specifically LGTBQ and transgender youth.
As an educator, Vinny emphasizes that knowledge is power. Sharing information and the real stories of LGBTQIA+ people with caregivers as well as within our communities is a way to ensure that LGBT patients can access healthcare and that a strong, supportive community is there to make sure those services are continuing and robust.
“This is why we need to keep paying attention, doing this work and speaking up,” says Vinny. “If we don’t, things are not going to change. As a transgender person who grew up in the deep south, I don’t think I would have ever come out if I’d stayed there. We’re very fortunate to live where we do and because of that we can do the work of education that has long-term benefit in building a strong, supported community.”
“Recently we started a transgender-specific training course for our clinicians. We can establish baselines for the knowledge of transgender care. We can answer questions like ‘What are the different kinds of gender-affirming care?’ ‘What are the obstacles to obtaining gender affirming care?’ ‘How do you talk to minor patients?’ and ‘How do you talk to older patients?’ We’re also doing a lot of outreach locally. Recently Mattie Mooney (they/them/theirs), Grand Marshal of this year’s Seattle Pride Parade and Swedish team member, participated in a panel at the University of Washington’s Queer Student health night. We were joined by some residents from Swedish [and other local hospitals]. We were able to answer questions from the community about topics like safe sex and where to get care. People were also asking about how to get started in a healthcare careers. It was wonderful to see that there is so much enthusiasm out there and that there are people out there who want to do this work.”
Caregivers at the Swedish Issaquah campus prepare to raise the flag for Pride Month.
Models for LGBTQ Care
A driver of disparities in LGBTQIA+ care is a shortage of trained clinicians. Kevin Wang points out that Swedish is actively seeking to address this issue.
“Healthy People 2020, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates health disparities exist in the LGBTQIA+ community due to a shortage of knowledge clinicians in LGBTQIA+ healthcare,” says Dr. Wang. “According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 33% of gender diverse patients had a negative experience when seeking healthcare services and 50% had to educate their clinicians in the providing of gender affirming healthcare. In 2011, a survey done of medical school deans indicated almost 70% rated their LGBTQIA+ healthcare training as fair or poor. The goal for our work at Swedish, from culture change to clinician support and education, is to provide the clinical and historical training necessary to provide LGBTQIA+-informed care to our patients on a primary care foundation. We hope to have LGBTQIA+ champions at our primary care sites so they may support their partners and communities to serve a larger region rather than house LGBTQIA+ care in a single clinic which may not be as accessible to our patients. Furthermore, the residency programs at Swedish incorporate LGBTQIA+ healthcare training to prepare our graduates to serve our LGBTQIA+ patients and all other populations with intersecting identities. We can serve an even larger region by growing the workforce who are LGBTQIA+-identified and informed.”
Pride: The Right to Thrive
“Swedish has a long history of participating in Pride; I think we've probably participated in the Seattle Pride parade for many years. And so, we're excited now after two years of doing virtual pride events to now be able to walk in person at the Seattle Pride parade on June 26 with about 200 caregivers. And this year, we're including our Providence and PacMed affiliated groups, which is really exciting,” says Peter Mann-King (he/him/they/them), manager of the Swedish LGBTQI+ program.
“I think I can sum up our first in-person event since the pandemic using Seattle Pride’s theme for this year’s parade – Family Reunion,” says Kevin Wang. “LGBTQIA+ history is peppered with examples of a thriving community through gatherings to protest and protect. Although virtual events can help keep all of us informed, an in-person event gives us the personal touch we’ve missed. Our LGBTQIA+ family is made up of a diverse group of people and it’s beautiful to see all of us in one space to bring love and acceptance to our chosen family. The upcoming Pride event is an hours-long hug of inclusivity
I do want to remind everyone the Pride Parade, and Pride Month, is first and foremost a protest. This year’s in-person event will not only celebrate LGBTQIA+ resilience but to resist, oppose and announce we have a right to exist and thrive.”
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