Transgender and Gender Nonconforming in Emergency Departments: A Qualitative Report of Patient Experiences

Transgend Health. 2017 Feb 1;2(1):8-16. doi: 10.1089/trgh.2016.0026. eCollection 2017.


Background: Individuals who have a transgender or gender nonconforming (TGGNC) experience belong to a marginalized segment of the U.S. population, and healthcare can be difficult for them to navigate. Although emergency departments (EDs) traditionally serve as healthcare "safety nets" for vulnerable populations, quantitative studies outside the United States have found that TGGNC-experienced persons tend to avoid EDs and/or have negative experiences. This qualitative study primarily describes the ED experiences of people with a TGGNC history; furthermore, the study explores reasons why this population avoids U.S. EDs and their recommendations for improvements to ED care. Methods: This qualitative study used data about TGGNC-historied persons' experiences in U.S. EDs from retrospective, anonymous, written surveys (paper or web based). National data collection took place from June 2012 through December 2014. Participant responses (n=240) were examined using thematic analysis. Results: Using a framework that recognized positive and negative responses, the themes of Self-Efficacy and Power Inequity surfaced. These themes exposed the tension between patients with TGGNC experiences and clinicians who were perceived to lack training in this area, resulting in negative patient experiences. When practitioners had specific training about this population, participants reported positive care experiences. Conclusions: This study indicates that many TGGNC-historied persons who use U.S. EDs have negative experiences, largely due to lack of provider sensitivity toward and training about this patient population. Data from this investigation suggest that training of U.S. ED providers and institutional support would help improve care for this marginalized group.

Keywords: discrimination; emergency department; emergency medicine; gender nonconforming; patient perception; power; provider training; stigma; transgender.