Addressing an underserved population, nurses at Metropolitan Hospital Center in East Harlem are providing care and a higher comfort level for the LGBT community. The Comprehensive LGBT Health Center opened in June with appointments available every Saturday.
LGBT patients may feel uncomfortable or judged in a regular clinical setting, according to Clifettia Grissett, RN, a clinic staff nurse, and fear sharing personal information with their physician.
If youre uncomfortable with your treatment, you tend not to go back, Grissett said.
This clinic, according to its nurses, is breaking down those barriers.
That gave us the impetus to actually focus on this as a real healthcare community need for these particular patients, said Lillian Diaz, RN, NEA-BC, MHCs CNO and deputy executive director.
MHC mandates cultural competence training that teaches sensitivity, such as honoring how a transgender patient wants to be addressed.
You want to ask them about their sexual orientation as well as their gender identification, Grissett said. It starts an honest report between you and that patient.
Patients in the community are hearing about the clinic through community outreach events such as the AIDS Walk and Gay Pride Parade. In addition, nurses and other staff members help spread the word at hospital events.
The clinic offers patients a variety of care options.
Patients have access to the full range of specialists, programs and services as other patients at Metropolitan, Grissett said. This includes the opportunity to sit with a social worker when they come in for a visit. This is all part of the comprehensive aspect of the care they are getting here.
Patient processesChristopher Leo Daniels
Patients are pre-registered, checked in, have their vitals taken, and are offered an optional HIV testing, Grissett said. After a visit by a primary care professional, nurses go over information on the patients chart.
Christopher Leo Daniels, a gay patient from Washington Heights, said the clinic eliminates the judgment and stigma of explaining his sexuality.
At this clinic, the assumption is gone and we can get right down to the matter at hand, which is my health, my habits and concerns, he said.
One patient with hypertension hadnt been to his doctor in several years because he felt uncomfortable, Grissett said. He made an appointment with the LGBT clinic.
His blood pressure was out of control, but by the third or fourth visit at the clinic it had stabilized, Grissett said.
Patients such as Daniels report they feel relaxed and accepted.
In a short time, it felt like I was greeted by friends who just happened to be healthcare professionals, Daniels said, adding that he tells friends and coworkers about the clinic.
On opening day, the clinic welcomed four patients. As the word spreads, patient numbers are expected to grow.
Lately it seems as though well have a patient one week, and then the next week their partner will come in, Grissett said.
Valuable feedbackLillian Diaz, RN
Clinic nurses like working with LGBT patients for several reasons.
I enjoy all of my patients and you just really feel appreciated, Grissett said. Theyre so thankful for the clinic and you really feel like youve helped somebody out.
In the future, the clinic hopes to have expanded hours and days of service.
Well move toward a dedicated delivery model that will more than likely be seven days a week, Diaz said.
Nurses say online patient feedback has been positive so far.
Some of the comments we get are that we feel like family to them, Grissett said. Its a good thing.
Stefanie DellAringa is a freelance writer.