Duke Regional Team Focuses on Improving Patient Care for All

By Morag MacLachlan, Duke Health Communications; article originally published in Inside Duke Health Jan. 5, 2022

When Nurse Manager Heather Talley learned the Duke Regional Hospital (DRH) Labor & Delivery Unit was about to provide obstetrics care to transgender patients, she wanted to make sure both the team and the patients had the best possible experience. Since caring for transgender patients is not usually a part of nursing education, she sought guidance from a fellow DRH colleague.

“I've been a nurse for 40 years and never had any training in providing transgender care," said Margaret Muir, DNP, RN, CNML, strategic services associate for patient experience at DRH. “I went back to school to earn a doctorate in nursing and decided to make researching this topic my thesis."

This endeavor became a passion project for Muir who decided what she had learned could not sit on a shelf once she'd earned her doctoral degree in nursing. The training she developed focuses on caring for transgender and gender non-conforming patients. It now earns clinicians who complete it one contact hour of continuing education. Muir presents her training nationally and locally, most recently at the Watts College of Nursing.

“The presentation was very engaging with great feedback," said Judy King, DNP, RN, nursing faculty at Watts College of Nursing. “The purpose is to expose new student nurses to the diverse patient population they will be caring for in the community and provide strategies and guidance on providing culturally competent care."

Muir's presentation defines common terms and gives providers a tip sheet that Talley said is especially helpful. The sheet reminds clinicians to ask patients what pronouns they prefer and what words they use to talk about their body parts.

“Obstetrics is inherently gendered. We're known as the Women's Service Line," said Talley, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, CNML. “We needed this training so that patients didn't feel like they needed to teach us before we could provide them care."The patients the Labor & Deliver Unit has treated thus far who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming have found the experience at DRH pleasant and respectful, Talley said. She said the team has also appreciated the tools Muir created because it allows them to offer more informed care.

“People won't take your health advice if they don't feel listened to and respected," Talley said. “We embraced this golden opportunity and provided an environment where patients feel welcome to come back for their care and their child's care."​

Pictured: Members of Duke Regional's Labor and Delivery Unit have undergone a training to better care for patients who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. Photo Credit: April Dudash, Communications Manager – Duke Regional Hospital (Photo taken pre-Omicron variant)​.