Successive DNP projects help large healthcare system improve care for transgender patients

A large Catholic healthcare system is educating its 16,000 employees and 1,200 care providers about gender-affirming healthcare thanks in part to the work of students in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the Washington State University College of Nursing in Vancouver.

Kim Pederson, DNP ’21, developed the system’s gender-affirming care policy as her final project in the doctoral program. Doctor of Nursing Practice students at the WSU College of Nursing undertake a project to translate meaningful health research into practice, which can take the form of a quality-improvement initiative, practice-change program or program evaluation.

Pederson had learned of the challenges faced by transgender and nonbinary patients through course work during her DNP studies.

“Research has shown that this population of patients has barriers to equitable care,” she said. “They’ve been refused care, or received substandard care, or delayed care, or encountered providers who lacked adequate knowledge to care for them. This policy was to close that gap and build trust.”

Now that the policy has been accepted, the healthcare system will work on education and cultural competence training for all employees and an upgrade of the electronic medical record system to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Said Pederson, who is using her DNP degree in executive administration, “Our goal is by the end of 2023 we will have made a substantial improvement for this patient population.”

Current DNP students at the WSU College of Nursing will be helping with that. Three student projects are advancing Pederson’s work with the large healthcare system by focusing on aspects of cultural competence and gender-affirming care there.

Britney Allison’s project focuses on the education modules the system will begin rolling out in October to all employees. Manjot Singh will try to learn whether caregivers believe they have the skills to address bias. And Lisa Rodriguez will work with behavioral healthcare providers to learn about the use of a Cultural Formulation Interview to increase cultural knowledge and responsiveness.

The model provides continuity for a healthcare facility or system. It also gives students the ability to undertake big, multi-part initiatives as DNP projects.

Allison said her interest in the topic sprang from her work as a registered nurse, where she cared for transgender patients.

“Providers are still treading water, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, but they’re not really sure what to do,” she said. “I think that experience drove me the most.”

Said Sarah Fincham, Interim DNP Program Director at the WSU College of Nursing, “We are so proud of the contributions that our DNP students are making in health care systems and communities to improve both the delivery of care and the health of patient populations – this is what DNP degree is designed to do and it’s wonderful to see this in action.”