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UK Nurses Lacking Training to Deal with Transgender Patients

British nurses are woefully undertrained to deal with transgender patients, according to a new report.

Most nurses feel they lack the skills to be able to deal with trans people requiring treatment relating to gender issues.

A survey conducted by the Royal College of Nursing found that 87% of nurses questioned felt unprepared to care for a trans patient. The study also found that 76% had encountered trans people during their working lives and over half had personally cared for trans people.

Only a fifth of nurses said that they thought there was adequate measures in place for the care of trans people, and over three quarters said more training needs to be provided.

According to the Guardian, gender identity clinics across the country have experienced massive surges in use, up several hundred percent.

Over the last 10 years referrals to gender identity clinics have increased exponentially. However, waiting times for trans people at specialist clinics has been found to be inadequate with waits of up to four years being reported, with an average of over nine months.

Trans people also reported being made to feel belittled by GP’s who would often label the needs as a phase and were sometimes laughed at and referred to by their physiological gender, not the gender they identify with.

A trans woman named Kirsty Cass has worked as a nurse for two years but says that prejudice and misunderstanding is rife in her profession.

In one case, several years after gender reassignment surgery she was wheeled into a male ward after getting a lump on her ear removed.

“To say I was upset was an understatement,” said Cass. “I was inconsolable; I was sobbing my heart out.”

Cass reiterated the problem was to do with a lack of training in sensitivity. Only 1% of nurses questioned said the issue of trans patients had been brought up in training.

Louie Stafford, the trans programme coordinator for the LGBT Foundation, said the survey results were as he would expect.

“Gender identity issues are considered a speciality field, so unless you’re practising in that field, it’s unlikely you’ll have any training or any guidance. It’s great that the RCN are trying to shine a light on this from the medical perspective, there’s an urgency for academic medical institutions to consider the curriculum and the content that they’re teaching and put some awareness training in there.”

Wendy Irwin, RCN diversity and equalities coordinator, said the college was pushing for training regarding the treatment of trans people to become a compulsory part of pre-registration nursing training as well as part of continuing professional development.

“I think nurses are increasingly aware of the gap in their knowledge,” she said. “All nurses have a deep and personal desire to deliver the absolute best care for all their patients, what they’re looking for is how to do that.”


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