Pharmacists Work to Support LGBTQ Patients
Post submitted by Jennifer L. Mathews, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Wegmans School of Pharmacy, St. John Fisher College. Mathews recently worked with HRC Foundation on two resources: “Providing LGBTQ-Inclusive Care and Services At Your Pharmacy” and “The LGBTQ Patient's Guide to Pharmacy Care.”
Over the past decade, we have seen many positive changes related to the pharmacist’s role in patient-centered care and the beginnings of conversations and training specifically related to care for LGBTQ patients. However, most pharmacists still receive little or no formal education on LGBTQ patients.
Pharmacists are on the front lines of providing quality, affirming care, which is why training is so important. Within the Wegmans School of Pharmacy we begin this early, in the first year of the program. Students are introduced to terminology and provided with opportunities to interact with LGBTQ patients in an environment that allows them to ask questions and receive feedback from the very patients they may encounter later in their careers. We provide similar training for our community preceptors, the pharmacists who provide the hands-on training for our students out in the pharmacies. However, this represents a small fraction of the pharmacy students and practicing pharmacists across the country.
A recent paper that evaluated LGBTQ health education in pharmacy school curricula found that less than half of the schools that responded reported having LGBTQ content in the required curriculum. When these topics were covered most programs had one to three hours allotted within the curriculum and the topics most frequently taught were HIV and STIs. Most programs reported that little faculty development was provided for teaching LGBTQ health content.
To help reach all the pharmacists who did not receive LGBTQ competency training in their pharmacy programs, I took a sabbatical last fall to work with HRC Foundation’s Health and Aging program to develop a resource guide for pharmacists and pharmacy staff on providing LGBTQ inclusive care and services. The guide provides information on creating a welcoming environment within the pharmacy setting as well and highlights healthcare barriers and disparities within the LGBTQ patient population.
Pharmacists have a unique role within the healthcare system as one of the most accessible providers. However, many patients don’t always recognize the important role that a pharmacist can play as a partner in their healthcare. That is why I worked with HRC to also develop a consumer guide to help LGBTQ patients utilize their pharmacists as a resource in navigating the healthcare system, proper use of medications and information on preventative care.
Pharmacists who provide affirming care to LGBTQ patients will naturally encourage an open dialogue with their patients. I hope these guides help pharmacists and patients to foster a relationship to ensure the best possible health outcomes.