Did you know that Wednesday is Nurses’ Day? When trans people are first thinking about coming out and seeking support from their surgery then, understandably, the first person they consider is their GP. Will they be accepting and understanding or will they be transphobic? Will they refer me to the gender identity clinic (current waiting lists around 4 years for first appointment) or will they try to convince me that I’m not trans? But soon the person who becomes the primary caregiver is the practice nurse and so today’s blog is in praise of the amazing care that people receive from their nurses.
The first principle of nursing is that “nurses and nursing staff treat everyone in their care with dignity and humanity – they understand their individual needs, show compassion and sensitivity, and provide care in a way that respects all people equally” and nothing shows this more than the care and support they give to their trans patients when they are doing health checks, taking bloods and all those other essentials that long term hormone therapy requires.
Back in the summer of 2019 Jo Lockwood and I were invited to speak at three Practice Nurses training events across Hampshire on Trans Awareness and I can still clearly remember not only the warm reception we got but also the levels of care evident in the questions asked and the stories shared about how practice nurses were already supporting trans patients.
Fear of transphobia is a real barrier to accessing health care for trans people and it is lovely to be able to recognise those centres of excellence, those areas where people are trying their very best to break down those barriers, to make their practices more accessible. Did you know you can have a discrete word with your practice nurse to make sure you still get reminder letters for those essential examinations if you still have a cervix or a prostrate? If you’re worried about intimate care then speak with your nurse first. Make an appointment to have a chat over the phone so you can explain your worries, knowing that your nurse’s governing body has created material specifically to raise awareness of how to support you and has a resolution to ensure Fair Care for Trans and Non-binary people.
In the Autumn of last year Chrysalis was approached by a fantastic nurse, Cassie Fletcher, who was on a mission to not only qualify as a nurse practitioner (someone who can assess patient needs, order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose disease and formulate and prescribe treatment plans) but to set up a local service specifically to support trans people access essential blood tests and health checks whilst they are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). An ambitious plan indeed but a mission which very much aligns with Chrysalis’ ideals to provide life changing and indeed life saving support to trans, non-binary and questioning people where they live.
This last year has seen our health system put under immeasurable strain, and indeed lots of trans people have found that their standards of care have slipped because of the lack of face to face treatment, rereading the results of Cassie’s survey in preparation for this blog show just how badly the current system is treating trans people, and in particular non-binary people, and today I heard that we have received yet another blow because the only clinic in the UK which provides lower surgical support to transmasc people has lost the NHS contract. As I type one of our trustees is on the case to find out more information which we will share with you as soon as we can.
It is through the initiatives of caring health care professionals, like those practice nurses Jo and I spoke to, like the GPs who call us up and want to know how they can improve their practice, through support from people like Claire Pond and Nick Birtley working within the clinical commissioning groups in Hampshire to improve primary health care for trans people across the county that change happens, but it is slow and those four year waiting lists are not coming down. I am hoping that my work as a Vaccination Champion will help us get Chrysalis in front of health care professionals across the region and now that Covid-19 is hopefully receding I’m looking forward to getting out and about to get Chrysalis and trans affirmative care back on the agenda across the south.