Words Matter - Creating a Welcoming Environment for All Patients and Families
Jun 16, 2022
As healthcare workers we know that the children and families walking into a children’s hospital are coming to us in hopes of finding help for their illness or relief from their pain. However, what we may not realize is that there are underlying worries and anxieties behind the smiles of the children and their caregivers that reach far beyond their medical concerns.
Around the nation the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQIA2+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-spirit, Plus) community are being challenged, and in some cases removed. Several states have introduced or passed laws banning trans athletes from competing in sports that align with their gender identity, banning gender affirming care, or even banning just the discussion of their presence in schools.
This combined with the ongoing mental health crisis afflicting our children, even more so during the pandemic, has made it more apparent and important to ensure that everyone who walks into a children’s hospital, or any medical center for that matter, feels safe and welcomed.
While we may not be able to continuously advocate for our patients and their families in the outside world, once in our clinics, offices, or patient rooms, simple measures can be taken to provide that security. The simplest and most effective step we can take is to honor and respect their identity by ensuring that we refer to them by their affirmed name and pronouns.
We understand that being misgendered or referred to by another name can be traumatizing to any individual, and particularly harmful to those who are navigating the waters of gender identity, whether they are transitioning, fully transitioned, or identifying anywhere along the spectrum of gender fluidity. The process of coming out is a very individual and complex process, and as providers we owe them the respect of honoring their journey, wherever they may be.
Our commitment to our patients and families is as follows:
If we know the affirmed name and pronouns, we use them.
If we do not know this information, we ask.
We do not assume that all female presenting individuals go by she/her, and a parent may not want to be referred to as mother.
We do not assume that all male presenting individuals go by he/him, and a parent may not want to be referred to as father.
We understand that gender identity is fluid and can change over time.
The diversity of our patients and families is continuously evolving, and it is up to US to evolve with it in order to remain a steadfast supporter and provider of inclusive health care for all.
Marissa Larouere is the Vice President of the Neonatal Network. She graduated with her BSN from Case Western Reserve University and received her Masters’ in Business Administration from American Intercontinental University.
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