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lgbt healthcare

Healthcare workers have positive attitudes towards LGBT+ people but lack training, study shows

The HSE now has ‘Rainbow Badges’ to help pateints identify LGBTQ-friendly staff.

HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS HOLD positive attitudes towards young, LGBTQ+  people but report low levels of clinical preparedness, a new study shows.

Researchers from Trinity College, University College Dublin and Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) surveyed staff in three paediatric emergency departments and found that staff were less confident in their knowledge of LGBTQ-specific health issues.

This study is the first time competence in caring for LGBTQ+ patients has been assessed in paediatric emergency medicine practitioners.

Dr Dani Hall from CHI told TheJournal that she is “delighted” to have found posiitvie attitudes, but more training is needed.

“It means that when an LGBTQ+ young person comes to the emergency department, they will be treated respectfully, and they don’t need to fear that our staff will treat them with judgment,” she said.

“The knowledge was pretty good around some of the barriers to health for LGBTQ young people, but our staff just didn’t feel prepared in the training that they’d received to be able to provide the right level of care that they felt that these young people needed.”

This was particularly evident in the case of trans young people.

“The take from that was really great news for CHI, but we definitely, definitely need to be putting in some training for our staff,” Hall said.

While there is now a “small section” of undergraduate curricula dedicated to LGBTQ+ care, doctors and nurses who have been working for years missed this training opportunity.

In 2019, a national report showed 13% of young people under the age of 23 identify as LGBTQ+.

Three quarters of LGBTQ+ people feel that healthcare providers lack knowledge and sensitivity to LGBTQ+ issues with 20% seeking LGBTQ+ friendly clinicians because of bad experiences.

“I’m glad that we found the knowledge gaps. it means that we can address it. Because ultimately it’s about breaking down barriers to health care for these LGBTQ young people,” said Hall.

Rainbow badges

The HSE has recently started an initiative called Rainbow Badges, which is a way for staff to demonstrate that they are aware of the issues that LGBTQ+ people can face when accessing healthcare.

The badge, which displays the pride flag, indicates to patients that the wearer is comfortable talking about issues like sexuality and gender.

Resistance to the initiative and aversions to learning about how to better care for LGBTQ+ people “hasn’t yet been something that we’ve seen”, which surprised Hall.

The initiative is opt-in, meaning not all staff have, or are expected to have, a badge.

While more data must be collected on the response to the new scheme, there has so far been no negative feedback from staff or patients.

“One of the things we were very careful about [was] that this wasn’t a badge that everyone would wear, because that dilutes the message,” Hall said.

“What I would really hate for a young person to see someone wearing a badge, give them some very personal information about their sexuality or their gender identity and for that information to be handled in an insensitive way.”

Hall added: “What’s also really lovely is that our LGBTQ staff are really seeing benefits of their colleagues wearing the badge because it makes them feel like our organisation is very inclusive.”

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