Internal medicine resident physicians who interact with transgender actors during their medical training are then better able to provide quality care to transgender patients after their residencies, according to a study published in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education.
Most physicians receive little or no training on transgender health. This gap in training can contribute to condescension, discriminatory behavior, bad medical advice, and false beliefs about trans identities. These experiences can endanger the health of transgender individuals and impede transition for those going through the process.
How Trans Actors Can Improve Medical Care
For the study, a transgender actress played the role of a “standardized patient,” who consistently portrayed a common medical scenario among trans patients. The actress took two hormones, spironolactone and estradiol, but had high blood pressure and high potassium levels. She also expressed interest in removing her testicles.
The doctors were encouraged to understand and respect her treatment wishes and develop a treatment plan. Researchers also looked at whether the physicians took additional measures to be sensitive to the patient’s needs, such as asking her gender identity and the pronouns she used.communication, and 85 for satisfaction. These scores are similar to those provided by a cisgender standardized patient in nine control scenarios.
This suggests training work with a transgender actor can help doctors overcome communication and knowledge barriers.
Meeting the Health Care Needs of Trans People
Research consistently finds many doctors are ill-equipped to meet the needs of transgender patients. Many transgender individuals face prejudice and discrimination in health care. Having physicians work with transgender actors during their medical residencies can also take the burden of transgender health education off of transgender patients later on.
The 2016 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found 19% of transgender individuals who seek medical care for any health issues are denied treatment. More than half must educate their providers about care. Another recent study found the mental health care system often fails to meet the needs of transgender individuals, even though many face discrimination and violence. These experiences are associated with an increase in mental health concerns.
- National Transgender Discrimination Survey. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.transequality.org/issues/national-transgender-discrimination-survey
- Schatz, R. D. (2016, July 29). Transgender actors teach NYU Langone med students to be better docs. Retrieved from http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160729/HEALTH_CARE/160729851/transgender-actors-teach-at-nyu-langone-medical-center-med-students-to-be-better-docs
- Transgender actors effective in teaching new doctors to provide respectful care. (2017, June 15). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-06/nlmc-tae061317.php
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