It’s Pronoun-palooza at Chase Brexton Health Care! Our centers are honored to serve nearly 4,000 gender-diverse children, adolescents, adults, and elders. In creating a welcoming, affirming care environment, using the appropriate name and pronoun for every patient is non-negotiable. In that spirit, our LGBT Health Resource Center is leading an internal campaign about the importance of correct pronouns in patient care.
Using the patient’s chosen name and appropriate pronoun isn’t just good manners – it’s good health care. Demonstrating respect by seeing someone as the whole person they are is the basis of a therapeutic relationship. The cost of being “misgendered” (called “ma’am” when the truth is “sir”) or “deadnamed” (addressed by a wrong-gender name you no longer
use) is more than an awkward moment. It can impact how a patient’s body responds to treatment. Scholarly studies and patient testimony alike show that when people are addressed appropriately and able to feel safe at their doctor appointment, stress goes down, trust goes up, and overall health and well-being improves.
As a health care system, we ask about pronouns during our intake process and add the information to their medical chart. We even have a special feature most electronic medical records systems lack. When a patient calls or comes to a front desk at Chase Brexton, a pop-up screen appears with the person’s chosen name and the pronoun they use. This mechanism supports our staff in providing a welcoming encounter. More importantly, recording the right information saves the patient the anxiety, humiliation, and the real safety risk of having to explain their personal business at the front desk.
And yet, mistakes happen. The pop-up system that supplies correct information cannot be integrated into every patient encounter point, and not every employee who speaks to a visitor in the hallway has access to full patient records. Even though Chase Brexton staff are carefully vetted for affirming attitudes and intensively trained about caring for trans and gender diverse people, employees come from a vast spectrum of work and life experiences and may never have encountered someone who uses “they/them” pronouns before. Misgendering and deadnaming mistakes continue to be the number one complaint gender-diverse clients have about their care.
Those mistakes are understandable, but not acceptable. Vulnerable patients are counting on us to get it right every time. That’s why the LGBT Health Resource Center’s Health Equity Training Team is holding a series of interactive education sessions about the critical importance of names and pronouns with each of our 400-plus staff members.
The trainings are designed to be lively, fun, and brief, more like games than classes. One game asks participants to tell one another the Story of My Name, drawing up empathy through personal connections to the sacredness of names and self-naming. Another prompts the group to add up the total number of minutes they spent perfecting their gender presentation for today, bringing awareness to the hundreds of tiny indicators we all use to tell the world about who we are. Yet another examines the impact of microaggressions for our gender diverse patients, analyzing the harmful hidden messages in ignorant phrases.
The best part: the Pronoun Campaign comes with fabulous prizes! All staff and patients have been offered lanyard pins to indicate the pronouns they use, as well as adorable Llamacorn buttons with our slogan “Be Proud, Be Healthy.” Even for cisgender staff who use binary pronouns (she/her or he/him) and are never misgendered, wearing a “Hello, My Pronouns Are: ____” button communicates to our patients that we are aware of the impact a pronoun can have on their care. Something so small can have such a huge effect on making sure our communities are met with the culturally responsive care they deserve. t
To learn more about pronouns, gender identity, and view contact information for The LGBT Health Resource Center, visit Chasebrexton.org/gender-ed.