NORTHAMPTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil-rights organization, has named Cooley Dickinson Hospital a leader in LGBTQ healthcare equality.
Cooley Dickinson was the only hospital in Western Mass. and one of only 10 organizations in Massachusetts to earn the designation. Out of 590 organizations that took the survey nationwide, just 303 healthcare providers met the criteria. This is the first year Cooley Dickinson Hospital has earned the designation.
“Improving LGBTQ care and services at Cooley Dickinson is part of our broader commitment to address issues of diversity, health equity, and inclusion in our workforce, and in the care we provide to our patients and families,” said Joanne Marqusee, president and CEO of of Cooley Dickinson Health Care.
Marqusee noted that the hospital cannot take for granted — because of where it is located, in a community enriched by a relatively large percentage of LGBTQ individuals and families — that healthcare providers offer equitable, knowledgeable, sensitive, and affirming healthcare, free from discrimination. “It is our responsibility to do all that we can to provide respectful, equitable, and inclusive care to everyone, every time.”
Among the ways Cooley Dickinson is providing equitable and inclusive care:
• Cooley Dickinson has strengthened and made more visible its patient and staff non-discrimination policies and practices and developed staff trainings in LGBTQ patient-centered care. Since 2014, it has offered ongoing clinical and non-clinical education and training on LGBTQ health issues, challenges, disparities, and ways to overcome barriers to access and care; developed and revised policies that impact LGBTQ employees, patients, and families to be more inclusive and competent, such as ensuring equal visitation and medical decision making to same-sex couples; employee benefits that cover all partners and provide coverage for transgender employees; and safe and confidential rooming assignments for transgender patients.
• To enhance its LGBTQ patient services and support, the hospital is focusing on recruiting strategies and recently hired J. Aleah Nesteby, a family nurse practitioner at Northampton Family Practice, who has a specialty in transgender care. Nesteby also serves as Cooley Dickinson’s new director for LGBTQ Services.
• In an effort to identify and address the cultural needs of each patient, as well as monitor and analyze health disparities, Cooley Dickinson is developing ways to safely and sensitively collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the process, it is making sure to identify patients by their proper name and preferred pronoun in all settings.
“Though we have made notable gains over the past few years,” Marqusee said, “there is still much more work to be done.”