According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics cited by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an estimated 10% of youth in high schools across the U. S. identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, 2% identify as transgender and 4% are unsure of their sexual identity. A recent survey indicates hospitals are leading employers of LGBTQ people, with nearly double the national average compared to other industries.
As National LGBT Health Awareness Week kicks off, children's hospitals have a new resource available to them to help foster LGBTQ inclusion for employees, patients and families. In the HRC resource guide, Sandra Fenwick, CEO, Boston Children's Hospital says, "I am so proud…of the extraordinary work that all of us are doing to deepen our understanding of what our LGBTQ+ patients, families and employees need. The more we understand, the better equipped we are to evolve with those needs and eventually get ahead of them—instead of striving to catch up."
Special circumstances for children's hospitals
The HRC children's hospital resource guide is born out of the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), a national LGBTQ benchmarking tool that has evaluated health care facilities' policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees for the past 13 years.
More than 750 health care facilities participated in the 2020 survey, including 35 children's hospitals. Most of the HEI-recommended policies and practices can be applied to all health care facilities, but children's hospitals have unique experiences and issues surrounding LGBTQ inclusion. To better understand these issues, the HRC Foundation convened a focus group of leaders from 11 children's hospitals who regularly participate in the HEI.
Their discussions centered on four key areas:
- Non-discrimination and staff training. Ensuring LGBTQ inclusion in written policies around non-discrimination, including visitation policies.
- Patient services and support. Meeting needs of LGBTQ and transgender patients, including self-identification and medical decision making.
- Employee benefits and policies. Focusing on equality in employee benefits for LGBTQ workers, as well as establishing supportive policies for employees around transitioning in the workplace.
- Patient and community engagement. Recommendations include collecting LGBTQ status on patient care surveys to better understand the needs of patients and their families and greater levels of involvement in LGBTQ concerns within the community.
It's important for children's hospitals to embrace the lessons in the resource guide, according to Fenwick. "We know that we can do more when it comes to creating a safe and welcoming culture for all," Fenwick says. "Learning from each other is the first step."
Read the HRC resource guide for children's hospitals, LGBTQ Inclusion in Children's Hospitals: Lessons Learned from the Healthcare Equality Index