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How patients and family members are helping to infuse pride into The Ottawa Hospital’s DNA

Pride rainbow mask

The Ottawa Hospital considers patients and their loved ones crucial partners in care, especially when it comes to creating safer and welcoming spaces.

Created two years ago, The Ottawa Hospital’s Rainbow Patient and Family Advisory Committee (Rainbow PFAC) has given a strong voice to the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 2SLGBTQ+ is an initialism that stands for two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, with the plus representing other sexual identities. This community has historically faced severe systemic discrimination in the health-care system, and interactions with care providers can still be challenging.

Rainbow PFAC advisors collaborate with the hospital’s key decision makers to improve care for this vulnerable patient population, drawing on their lived experiences as both patients and family members.

Tim Hutchinson
Rainbow PFAC co-chair Tim Hutchinson is a longtime community activist.

“Pride events and occasions are important, but we’re not just raising the flag for a week or two and that’s it for the year,” says Rainbow PFAC co-chair Tim Hutchinson. “The Rainbow PFAC is helping us to infuse pride into the hospital’s DNA.”

The Rainbow PFAC has spearheaded a number of initiatives to help achieve this. Here are just a few examples of their hard work in action. 

Hospital-wide programming

Over the years, The Ottawa Hospital has launched an array of programs to enhance quality of care for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. These include nursing education sessions on gender diversity and trans health, as well as workshops where patients are taught storytelling techniques so they can improve communication with their care providers. 

The success of these education programs and workshops were actually the genesis of our Rainbow PFAC.

“With the popularity of these programs, it became apparent that the unique 2SLGBTQ+ patient experience needed to be better integrated into the care provided at The Ottawa Hospital,” says Tim. “Responding to this need, the idea of a distinct PFAC group was proposed.”

Creating a safe space in our emergency department

Buttons with pronouns
Many members of our admitting and emergency registration team wear these buttons featuring their pronouns.

For many patients, their health-care journey begins in the emergency department. That’s why the Rainbow PFAC has been working very closely with our admitting and emergency registration team.

The Rainbow PFAC co-designed a gender diversity training module for admitting and emergency registration staff. Titled “Respectful Conversations with Gender Diverse Patients,” the module outlines how to ask for and document a patient’s gender identity and pronouns.

As a standard procedure, staff now ask patients for their gender identity, pronouns and chosen name at registration. Patients can also update their own gender identity and chosen name in myChart, our online patient portal. And when you visit the hospital, you will see many of our admitting and emergency registration staff wearing buttons featuring their own pronouns.

Posters explaining the importance of pronouns
You will find these posters all around our admitting and emergency registration areas.

Respecting Gender Diversity staff training module

Recently, the PFAC co-designed a more in-depth gender diversity training module that has just been rolled out to all hospital staff members. This new course offers even more guidance for our staff on how to create a safer space for our trans and non-binary patients.

The visibility and success of this course, as well as the Rainbow PFAC’s other initiatives, have sparked interest from many departments in the hospital which are now looking for advice and further training to enhance patient care.

“Over the past two years, we’ve built appetite and interest at the hospital,” says Tim. “It shows that we’ve generated a willingness to really think about care delivery differently. That’s been very rewarding to me.”

Preparing for the future

“I’m really proud that we’ve accomplished a lot in two years, especially in a pandemic,” says Tim. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The Rainbow PFAC has several projects on the horizon, such as expanding much-needed mental health services, improving hospital discharge planning for 2SLGBTQ+ seniors, and collaborating with the Cancer PFAC to expand screenings for cancers that are more prevalent in the queer community.

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