"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."
E.E. Cummings, US poet
For thousands of British Columbians, their journey takes even more courage, resilience and strength as they navigate their own gender diverse journey amidst a host of challenging, confusing and, sometimes hostile, environments.
Thankfully that journey can be less trying as a result of the efforts of one of our newest PHSA+ Award winners, the Trans Care BC Education Team.
For a program that’s only in its fifth year of existence, Trans Care BC has touched literally thousands of lives across the province: from trans, gender diverse and Two-Spirit clients and patients and their family members to a wide range of health care professionals.
As only one of several key pieces of the Trans Care BC program, the Education Team has become a high-profile success by raising care provider knowledge, competency and cultural safety as well as highlighting the difficulties that trans, gender diverse and Two-Spirit people face in the province.
One of the reasons for the team’s outsized impact?
"They’re empowering us to be able to deal with our patients’ transition needs," is how Campbell River nurse practitioner (NP) Kendra Brown sees it.
As a recently graduated NP, Kendra is thankful for Trans Care BC’s educational offerings as she admits that transgender health wasn’t a big part of her clinical training before she started working at the Campbell River Foundry last summer. With her focus on youth and young adults, she’s able to apply knowledge from the Trans Care BC web site as well as from participating in a three-day training session in Victoria last year.
"Having the language to support gender diverse care is key," she adds. "If my patients are curious about their gender identity, you see how powerful it can be when working with the youth and using inclusive language. It really shows how important it is."
Nelson General Practitioner (GP), Lauren Galbraith, appreciates the wide range of resources the Education Team has developed over the past couple of years but says it all starts with the Trans Care BC web site for her.
"I refer to the Primary Care Toolkit
on a daily basis and I refer patients to the web resources every day as well."
She’s also recently begun participating in the team’s weekly clinical mentorship calls
, with practitioners around the province leading a lunch hour discussion of lessons learned and best practices on various topics.
She recognizes the value of the team’s provincial focus adding, "As a rural provider, I don’t have a ton of access to specialized resources like that, so I truly benefit from the expertise of other providers."
While they agree the web site is a great resource, Zac Aejaz, a Trans Care BC client currently awaiting gender-affirming surgery, gets the most value out of the team’s in-person learning opportunities.
Having attended a Trans Care BC/Vancouver Coastal Health information session on VCH’s new gender surgery program late last year, Zac was enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn more about the surgical procedures they'll be undergoing in the near future directly from a surgeon who performs the work.
"The UBC session went through info on what’s covered, hair removal, what the process looks like, everything," Zac says. "I’m not a surgeon but I was thankful that the doctor seemed compassionate and helpful."
Like the other patients and family members in attendance – both in-person and electronically – Zac was grateful to be able to gain some reassurance before undergoing surgery.
Vancouver Family NP Carrie Turri is also a fan of the weekly clinical mentorship calls, finding the presenters and the ability to ask questions of fellow professionals an effective way for her to inform her practice.
"There are a lot of nuances to prescribing hormone therapy," she explains, "so the calls are a great way to bounce ideas off an expert who’s been doing what I’m wanting to do for a while. It’s a great place for me to get answers to my questions."
Carrie also takes advantage of the Trans Care BC web site regularly and says it’s a go-to for her patients as well.
"Before I start any hormone therapy for my patients, I direct them to the web site," she adds. "It’s a chance for them to look things over before we even begin our conversation."
Another reason for the Education Team’s success is their ability to develop and deliver training and education initiatives that bring life to the struggle that some trans and gender diverse clients face when trying to access care.
For many of the team members, their work is personal and rewarding. Playing their part in shaping enhanced and improved care for people in the province is something they care deeply about.
In the case of Education Project Manager Gwen Haworth, she’s grateful for the team’s ability to work collaboratively and feels that the impact is amplified by working so closely with other parts of the larger Trans Care BC team.
"For me it’s been extremely gratifying," she explains. "I’ve gone from trying to access fragmented care during my transition 20 years ago to participating in a team that integrates so well with our other teams that we’re able to offer wraparound support and recognize a holistic approach to health."
While the Education Team’s innovative and engaging resources have been embraced by both the clients and the health care providers who use them, the team is clearly not resting on their laurels. In the past year, they’ve: