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Better Serving LGTBQ+ Patient Populations: The Role of a BPS Board-Certified Pharmacist

by Sean Cosgriff, PharmD, BCOP, FOSHP (he/him/his)
Council Member, BPS Infectious Diseases Pharmacy Specialty Council
Oncology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist
VA Portland Health Care System
Portland, Oregon
 
 
June is the month when we celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride month dates its origins to the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, and over time, the parades and street fairs have evolved from being purely protests into celebrations. But even today, protest is still present.

 

Individuals within the LGBTQ+ community have health care needs that can differ from other patient populations. Some patients are afraid they won’t be treated the same as others. Within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), where I practice, the health system has worked hard to ensure all veterans, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, receive equal care and treatment. At my specific institution, there are signs posted throughout the hospital indicating it is a “safe space” for members of this community, and our staff takes this to heart.

 

Although progress has been made within health care, the concerns of LGBTQ+ patients are valid and persist. Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I understand the concerns that surround seeking care, as I have experienced them. If I hear a patient belongs to the LGBTQ+ community, I try to ensure that their needs are met, as I would any patient, albeit approached from a different perspective. I have great resources to pull from to ensure a patient is comfortable in the care we provide, as several members on my team identify as LGBTQ+, from physicians to nurse practitioners, nurse coordinators and even infusion nurses.

 

In addition to my personal experiences and perspectives, BPS Board Certification is an asset to my practice as a pharmacist and to my role on a health care team. The team relies heavily on the information I provide them; they know I have met the standards for board certification in oncology and maintain my BCOP credential, which instills an elevated level of trust. I recertify through the continuing education process, which allows me to study literature I might not otherwise be exposed to and helps me stay a well-rounded oncology pharmacist. My oncology practice is somewhat specialized, given I work at a VA medical center where the large majority of our patients are men. By continuing my education through recertification, I still learn about malignancies seen less frequently in the VA patient population.

 

In my experience, the LGBTQ+ community wants to have interactions with health care professionals who are highly trained and knowledgeable. They also want to have their needs met. While board certification may not explicitly demonstrate that an individual understands the needs of the LGBTQ+ community – or any other community with unique concerns, for that matter – it does put a pharmacist at the leading edge. As pharmacists, the more we strive to better serve unique patient populations, whether the LGBTQ+ community or other groups, the better care we provide and the higher standard we set. That is a benefit.

 

Celebrate diversity. Happy Pride!

 

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