IU Bloomington Health Center improves accommodations for transgender patients

Jan. 30, 2014

The IU Bloomington Health Center is making drastic changes to its information management policies, staff education and health care services to better accommodate IU’s transgender population.

Patients can now select between three gender options -- male, female and transgender -- when entering required demographic information, as well as indicate their preferred name. The health center will honor these requests and work to treat patients with as much respect as possible.

Check box

Before, transgender students using IU Bloomington Health Center services had to identify as male or female. Now, they can choose between male, female and transgender.

Before policy changes, all health center patients were required to choose between “male” and “female” and were identified by their legal name, a practice that unintentionally “outed” several transgender students during their health center visits. 

Pete Grogg, director of the IU Bloomington Health Center, said he is personally overseeing the policy shift and is committed to making sure the issue is fixed.

“The health center should be the last place anyone feels uncomfortable coming to,” he said. “We’re here to provide health care that is needed by everybody. We need to embrace diversity and come up with a facility that accommodates everyone.”

Transgender students, faculty and staff can confidentially share both their preferred name and preferred gender status via a secure web-form on the health center’s website. This information will then be added to the health center’s electronic medical record, which is viewed only by medical staff.

“We don’t want patients to be afraid or opposed to the services we offer,” Grogg said. “Our objective is to get care to people that need it.”

When developing the new policies for the center, Grogg said he worked with students and staff from IU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services office to ensure that correct language and resources were used in the IU Bloomington Health Center’s new policies.

Ethan Jackson, IU junior and residential assistant, consulted with administrators and health center staff to pinpoint changes that needed to be made to improve accommodations for transgender students. A transgender student himself, Jackson said he experienced confusion and uncomfortableness while visiting IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services in the health center his freshman year.

“A lot of times, trans people have many hoops to jump through when seeking medical care at health centers,” he said. “It’s a daunting task, but we need to be able to go to a place on campus where we feel safe.”

Pete Grogg

Pete Grogg, director of the IU Bloomington Health Center.

In addition to offering new options to indicate gender, the health center also required staff to undergo two educational workshops in January. Medical assistants, cashiers, nurses and receptionists learned how to address the specific needs of transgender patients, such as using gender-neutral pronouns and preferred names.

Grogg said he plans to hold more training sessions for employees throughout 2014, including several visits from IU Health physicians who specialize in transgender patient care. 

“One or two training sessions aren’t going to do the trick,” he said. “The better we can educate our staff, the better it is for our campus. And it isn’t hard for us to do.”

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