November 12, 2015

Schools of Nursing, Medicine create new LGBT health course

The needs and nuances of providing health care to members of the LGBT community is the focus of a new course jointly offered by the Vanderbilt Schools of Nursing and Medicine.

The needs and nuances of providing health care to members of the LGBT community is the focus of a new course jointly offered by the Vanderbilt Schools of Nursing and Medicine.

The 13-week course, “LGBT Health in Interprofessional Practice,” was developed by Jesse Ehrenfeld M.D., MPH, and Sarah Fogel, Ph.D., R.N., and offers graduate students a structure for self-exploration of biases, discomfort, strengths and talents that may impede or enhance the ability to provide equitable health care among this minority group.

Healthy People 2020, which provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving overall health, selected LGBT Health as one of its key issues. The group cited various research showing that LGBT youth are two- to three-times more likely to attempt suicide, lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer, gay men are at a higher risk of HIV and transgender individuals have a high prevalence of victimization and mental health issues.

“We have extraordinary health care disparities in the LGBT community and providers cannot address these until we have fundamental knowledge,” said Ehrenfeld, associate professor of Anesthesiology, Biomedical Informatics, Surgery and Health Policy at Vanderbilt.

Language, sexual development, health risks and legal and ethical issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation will be defined and explored within different health care environments. Additionally, specific health care concerns for patients with disorders of sexual development or intersex will be explored.

“Students who take this course will have a much better understanding of health disparities and specific health needs such as gender and sexual development, visitation policies, dual parent adoption, gender expression, communication skills and discussing a range of resources for patients. All of this will impact patient interactions, quality, costs and outcomes,” said Fogel, director of the ASN to MSN Program at the School of Nursing.

The course is open to any graduate level Vanderbilt student. Medical students can take this as an elective in the third or fourth year of their medical education program and as part of an already established Graduate Certificate in LGBT Health. Nursing students can take it as part of the master’s, post-master’s or doctoral education programs.

“There will be some interesting opportunities for students from an economics, divinity, political science or public policy points of view, which will make this a transformative and unique experience,” said Ehrenfeld.

The class starts in summer 2016 and will involve seminars, face-to-face meetings, clinical projects, online learning modules and conferencing. The class is structured around a set of formal online modules using the latest information from a variety of content experts. The course culminates with students presenting a research poster about a specific clinical issue or broader topic related to health care in the LGBT community.

“This course is not introductory. It bumps up the learning so that students will learn things that actually affects the health care provided for these patients,” said Fogel. “My ultimate hope is that this course will help people realize that members of the LGBT community will no longer need to be invisible for safety’s sake. Because when they are invisible, we miss specific risks that impact care.”

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