ABSMC’s behavioral health department serves individuals from all over California who seek inpatient and outpatient services for mental health and chemical dependency treatment, including a specialty service for eating disorders. Patients represent diverse ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations and gender identities. For each patient to receive the best, most personalized care throughout their treatment journey, it’s important that the entire behavioral health team — psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists, support staff — be sensitive to their life experiences and needs.
To better care for transgender and other gender-diverse patients, Nancy Maguire, manager of clinical and psychological services at ABSMC, wanted to provide additional diversity training for the entire department. She hoped to enlist local therapist Shawn Giammattei, Ph.D., a well-known expert certified by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, to deliver the education.
To facilitate this opportunity, Maguire applied for a $1,500 grant from the Grants and Disbursements Program. After hearing her presentation, the philanthropy board approved her request, giving her the green light to proceed.
Originally, Maguire had envisioned in-person courses. But with the ongoing uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and with team members working various shifts, she determined that an on-demand virtual format would be more practical and accessible. She is now working with Dr. Giammettei to orchestrate the training, which will be made available via Sutter Health’s internal education platform later this fall.
Gender diversity training has several objectives. “Part of it is just to normalize gender diversity and help people not see it as so unique,” Maguire says. “We want staff to gain an understanding that, for people on the spectrum of gender diversity, their self-identified gender is truly how they see themselves. Therefore, their self-identified gender is no different than that of another person.” In this regard, the training will cover preferred terminology and pronoun usage, as well as how staff should assign rooms for care.
Another goal is to make providers and staff cognizant of the challenges many gender-diverse individuals experience. “A lot of people in this community have been discriminated against or been victims of trauma,” Maguire says. “There is also a much higher rate of suicide attempts in the transgender community. It is imperative to know about these issues when interacting with patients who may have faced them so that we can be more sensitive.”
Without the generosity of community donors, this important education may not have been accessible to the behavioral health department. “We feel lucky to have received such wonderful support from philanthropy,” Maguire says. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t have a lot of additional funds right now, so we are grateful that philanthropy is making this possible.”