Connor Gibney (he/him) works as a pharmacist in Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village where he serves the community’s 2SLGBTQI+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex) patients. Pharmacy Connection chatted with Connor about providing safe, relevant care and the tools he and his pharmacy team use to support inclusive pharmacy care.
Pharmacy Connection: What does safe and relevant care mean to you and how can we recognize it in action?
Connor Gibney: Overall, 2SLGBTQI+ patients and particularly HIV patients can be subject to many assumptions, judgements or biases before they even start receiving care from their healthcare teams. These judgments can cause harm for these patients, impeding their care and making them feel unsafe.
For healthcare providers to deliver safe and relevant care for these patients, the best place to start is to suspend any personal judgments or assumptions. This should be done for all patients but is especially important for those who are 2SLGBTQI+.
When healthcare providers enter a discussion with a patient while making assumptions about the patient’s concerns or their situation, we may miss the real problem they want us to address. Assumptions could also cause us to close off lines of communication. This can make patients feel like they haven’t been listened to and, as a result, they may not return to you with their concerns as they don’t trust you to consider them properly.
As pharmacy professionals, it’s important to communicate clearly, with empathy and ask open-ended questions. By keeping discussions open-ended, it invites patients to ask questions and helps clarify we are understanding one another. It also allows providers and patients to reach an understanding of the patient’s needs and ensures the patient’s concerns are addressed properly and next steps are identified.
PC: What can pharmacy professionals and other healthcare professionals do to best support their 2SLGBTQI+ communities/patients and deliver competent and inclusive care that recognizes the whole person?
CG: Ideally, patients would be able to receive all the care and information they need within their community, but not every practitioner is an expert on 2SLGBTQI+ health. Unfortunately, the knowledge and training required to fully support 2SLGBTQI+ patients is, in general, only readily available in predominantly metropolitan cities.
A good place to start to better support your 2SLGBTQI+ community is to have resources available for reference so you can easily look up information or clinics and, where appropriate, refer patients to others healthcare providers. Some examples of resources include:
- Rainbow Health Ontario for sexual health and gender affirming care information
- CATIE online resources for HIV, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis information
- UHN immunodeficiency clinic which maintains a free drug interaction module tailored for antiretroviral medication management.
In general, be comfortable in knowing what you don’t know. To support the 2SLGBTQI+ community, healthcare professionals don’t need to be able to immediately solve every problem or answer every question they receive from a 2SLGBTQI+ patient. They just need to provide an environment that is judgment free and be willing to hear out these patients’ concerns to support the delivery of appropriate care. Overall, to support these patients you should strive to create a safe space to start a conversation – somewhere they can come and ask questions and feel comfortable about next steps.
PC: What tools do you use to support a safe, competent, and inclusive pharmacy space?
CG: I use the below tools, resources and processes to support an inclusive pharmacy space for my patients:
- Record proper pronouns in patients’ files and use preferred names whenever possible
- Use gender neutral language as a standard unless a preference has been communicated by the patient
- Maintain lines of contact with 2SLGBTQI+ friendly and HIV familiar prescribers in our area for patient referral where appropriate. We are fortunate to be operating in a very 2SLGBTQI+ friendly area and are often able to directly refer patients to local care providers we can trust to be competent in providing inclusive care
- Be available for contact in different formats such as email, phone or in person to give options for different patients based on comfort level or mobility
- Make resources available on our website for patients directing them to information on pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, HIV treatment and 2SLGBTQI+ friendly sexual clinics. Much of this information is also available in written format in our stores or patients can call to speak to us on the phone. Overall, we have information available in many different formats depending on how patients want to access it.