Creating a welcoming environment for LGBT patients

Dean Andersen We've posted about health care disparities for certain communities before. This is part 2 of 2 posts that gives a more in-depth look at cultural competency in medical practices.

By Dean Andersen

Approximately 5 - 10 percent of your patient population may be lesbian, gay, or bisexual and approximately 1 - 10 percent may be transgendered. LGBT patients often “scan” an office for clues to help them determine what information they feel comfortable sharing with their provider. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association provides helpful guidelines for creating a welcoming environment.

Here are some of their recommendations:

  • Post rainbow flag, pink triangle, unisex bathrooms signs, and other LGBT-friendly symbols or stickers.
  • Exhibit posters showing racially and ethnically diverse same-sex couples or transgender people. Or posters from non-profit LGBT or HIV/AIDS organizations.
  • Display brochures (multilingual when possible and appropriate) about LGBT health concerns, such as breast cancer, safe sex, hormone therapy, mental health, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, domestic violence. Etc.
  • Disseminate or visibly post a non-discrimination statement stating that equal care will be provided to all patients, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, physical attributes, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression.
  • Participate in provider referral programs through LGBT organizations (e.g., or local LGBT organizations) or advertising in LGBT media can create a welcoming environment even before a patient enters the door.
  • Require staff to participate in annual sensitivity training. Often local LGBT organizations are happy to assist in planning and facilitating such training.

This basic list is a good starting point, but certainly is not comprehensive. Again sensitivity should be addressed in patient interviews, office space, intake forms, confidentiality policies, staff training, and outreach.

Check with GLMA’s “Guidelines for Care of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Patients." Culturally competent care isn’t hard, but it does require a bit of forethought and the desire to treat all your patients with care and understanding.

Missed Part 1? You can read it here.

Dean Andersen, M. Ed., is currently a Health Educator at MU Student Health Center and Project Manager on a MFH grant housed in Community and Family Medicine. Andersen has ten years experience as Project Manager on a variety of grants funded by the National Institute of Health and the Missouri Foundation For Health. One current grant, Out, Proud, and Health, strives to address health disparities in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Community. He served as Co-Chair for 2.5 years on S.A.F.E. (Smoke-free Air For Everyone), a local coalition that successfully passed a smoke-free workplace ordinance in Columbia Missouri and is a current Board Member of Tobacco Free Missouri, a statewide organization focused on reducing the negative impact of tobacco on all Missourians.


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