Communicating with the Transgender Patient Population

By Deepa Lalu, MSN, RN-BC

Communication with patients is the most important tool we can use at the bedside. It can help us build rapport and trust with patients. This helps us complete our assessments and educate our patients. Communication becomes even more important with transgender patients, who face many other challenges, including fear of discrimination, harassment, social stigmas, and being misgendered. We must do our part to create an inclusive environment for these patients, so they can feel safe and respected.
Creating an inclusive environment starts with you. Try to identify any perceptions or biases that you may already have towards the patient. Discovering these biases and perceptions can allow you to see where your approach to the patient may need to be different. This first step can make all the difference in changing your mindset and even body language towards the patient.
You can then ask the patient for their chosen name, which may be different from the name they were born with or even their legal name. Following this, you may ask them to describe their gender identity and pronouns. It is important to use their chosen name and pronouns as it can help build the bond between the nurse and patient. It is still essential to know the patient’s assigned sex at birth so appropriate medical care is provided. Patients should also be informed that they may still be asked their legal name and date of birth before any procedures, tests, or medication administration for their safety, and it is not meant to be disrespectful.
At the heart of communicating with any patient, respect and creating a safe environment are our greatest tools. It is always important to make our patients feel that they are in a safe and comfortable environment to communicate their issues with us freely.
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