Providence advocates for LGBTQIA+ patients and families

June 5, 2024 Providence Health Team


In this article:

  • LGBTQ Pride Month is celebrated in June of each year, but the work of advocacy and inclusion happens every day at Providence.

  • Senior Program Manager Bentley Fox describes education now offered to caregivers at Providence. This helps them stay up to date on the latest advancements in care for LGBTQIA patients and their families.

  • Hear from a mother about how she advocates for her trans daughter by having a voice on the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) at Providence.

In 2020, Providence launched a large initiative — called LGBTQIA+ Program — to better serve members of that community and their families. The program quickly evolved into a permanent program at Providence. Thanks to new services and education of Providence staff, patients are connected to gender-affirming primary and specialty care clinicians, surgeons and mental health professionals.

Events held during June attract millions of people around the world who want to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. Providence is busy with advocacy and grassroots efforts to help its local communities as well.

Advisory Council offers a seat at the table

To help ensure all transgender youth get the respectful health care they deserve, one mom applied to have a seat at the table. Serving on Providence’s Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) gives her a powerful voice about gender identity.

“My daughter is trans. From a really young age we were recognizing things about her that didn’t seem like your typical boy. We had begun at the age of four working with our pediatrician, who was great,” says Holly Campbell-Polivka. “My goal was to try to improve health care for trans people, specifically my daughter. So I started my journey on the Oregon Executive PFAC. I wanted to have a voice to advocate for my daughter and other kids like her. Of course because she’s a kid, my focus was youth, but [I wanted to advocate] for trans people in general.”

A goal of the PFAC is to focus on the patient experience and learn ways that patients (and parents of patients) want to be treated and represented. Having patients and family members who are comfortable speaking openly and honestly is critical.

“I wanted every person who my daughter saw at Providence to treat her just as a person and to not be confused by her name and her pronouns and to not feel like she was a novelty,” Campbell-Polivka explains.

Bentley Fox, senior program manager for Providence Institute for Human Caring, helps with the council. “Having a Patient and Family Advisory Council is about centering the patient experience. We worked a lot together on education specifically and putting together education for caregivers at Providence,” Fox says.

“I’m so happy that [this education] was happening because I had waited for so long,” Campbell-Polivka says. “And the fact that it was system wide — it wasn’t just the state of Oregon, it was the entire Providence system — that was so exciting. To hear that it was going to be available to every patient-facing employee at Providence was just amazing to me.”

The purpose of staff education is to create a culture that ensures patients feel welcomed, safe and understood when seeking care.

Continuous LGBTQIA advocacy work still needed

“The PFAC was fantastic in saying ‘this is actually how I’d like to be represented. These are the words we’d like to use.’ But we hit a pretty big limitation when we had to keep things aligned with [our information technology system],” explains Fox. “There were words or definitions that we couldn’t change or update. That was a hard moment. We acknowledge that language evolves, and it’s really important to make sure that we document things the way that the patient represents themselves.”

Information technology solutions will need to continue evolving.

“We are doing the best we can to use the language that is most respectful and most accurate, but two years from now it could be obsolete. It’s frustrating some of the language is not trans-patient friendly. So that’s my next goal,” says Campbell-Polivka, who will continue advocating for what’s best for her daughter and so many others.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about LGBTQIA+-informed care, contact LGBTQIA+ Care or Transgender Health at Providence Swedish. If you need to find a provider, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Download the Providence app

We’re with you, wherever you are. Make Providence’s app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records and more. Learn more and download the app.

Related resources

Improving the health outcomes of the LGBTQIA+ community

Investing in access to holistic health care for our LGBTQI+ communities

Hear Me Now podcast: Advocate for the most vulnerable

DEI Discussions: Engaging in important conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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