Each June, the world celebrates Pride Month and members of the LGBTQ community. This year, UI Health Care is celebrating some of our employees, like Social Work Specialist Jessica Brierton.
What’s your title and what do you do on campus?
I am a Social Work Specialist within the Care Coordination Division at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.
When I was in my undergraduate internship here several years ago, I didn’t know any LGBTQ healthcare staff in my department or on the inpatient unit I worked on. I remember wishing I had an LGBTQ colleague or mentor to connect with and process common workplace experiences LGBTQ employees encounter.
After some time I just started unabashedly coming out as a lesbian to my colleagues as I felt supported enough to be my authentic self, which I am very grateful for. Now there are several more visible LGBTQ staff within my division, and new students and employees can easily find LGBTQ staff and faculty using the LGBTQ+ OutList. I love that now I’m a mentor for new LGBTQ staff and students and can be a visibly out healthcare patient care provider. I’m so grateful for the strides and focus to increase support for LGBTQ employees, especially those are also BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color).
What has made you feel welcome and accepted here?
Without a doubt, it’s the staff at UI Health Care that make all the difference. There are several staff who are allies and wear rainbow stickers on their badges as a sign of support for the LGBTQ community. I’ve worked with staff who observed gaps in practice or policy related to LGBTQ care and then strive to find the best solutions to improve LGBTQ patient experiences. What has moved me the most though is when I see healthcare staff take the time, make an effort, and advocate for LGBTQ colleagues or patients. Often it’s the smallest gestures that make the largest difference.
Can you tell us about the training for healthcare professionals you created?
Working alongside several interdisciplinary teams, I found that while healthcare staff had good intentions, they sometimes were not up to date on current language and best practice strategies for LGBTQ patients. This inspired me to create a curriculum on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to increase understanding of this community and to help combat healthcare disparities in the LGBTQ community.
The SOGI Phase I training is an introduction to the LGBTQ population, updated terminology and definitions, and related UIHC policies and resources. The SOGI Phase II training focuses on working with the transgender community by reviewing gender identity vocabulary, practice asking pronouns, and UIHC transgender-specific care and hospital policies.
We now have a pool of presenters, made up of UIHC healthcare staff and College Carver of Medicine students, to increase availability of these trainings due to increased demand for the SOGI trainings. The support and interest in these trainings has been so inspiring and have helped provide tools to healthcare staff to improve healthcare experiences of our LGBTQ patients. Moving forward, I hope to expand the trainings to include intersectionality in the LGBTQ community and a deeper emphasis on LGBTQ social determinants of health.
University of Iowa Health Care is developing an OutList and invites anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ to participate. The OutList is completely voluntary. There will be multiple options for those who decide to participate to make decisions on how much information they want public versus private.