If We Don’t Ask, Why Would They Tell? Provider and Staff Perceptions of LGBTQ and Gender Minority Women Seeking Services in Women’s Health





gender minority, sexual minority, LGBTQ, women's health, provider perceptions, women who have sex with women (WSW), OB/GYN


Purpose: The objective of this study was to assess perceptions among staff at Penn State Women’s Health towards treatment of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) patients through creation and dissemination of a survey, in efforts to eluacidate opportunities to improve upon faculty diversity training and, ultimately, the care provided to sexual and gender minority (SGM) patients. 

Methods: Informed by prior literature and the National LGBT Health Education Center national survey of healthcare providers, an electronic survey was developed and administered via email to Women’s Health staff. The survey included items on staff perceptions of the prevalence of SGM patients, relevance of discussions surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity and preparedness to meet the health needs of SGM patients, as well as familiarity with existing resources for SGM patients and desired future training on SGM health. 

Results: Roughly 200 staff received the survey, of which 34 responded, yielding a response rate of 17%. Clinical and nonclinical participants disagreed, on average, with the statement, My patients want me to ask them about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Using an unmatched count technique, it was estimated that 7% of participants are uncomfortable working with LGBTQ patients and 50% believe that talking with LGBTQ patients about their sexual orientation and gender identity will create more work for themselves. Clinical and nonclinical participants felt neutral, on average, towards statements regarding their familiarity with or preparedness to meet the health needs of their LGBTQ patients. 

Conclusions: The results of this survey demonstrate a misperception among Woman’s Health providers that SGM patients do not want to discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite having an accurate perception of the prevalence of SGM in clinic, providers felt neutral in their preparedness to meet the health needs of LGBTQ patients and lack knowledge of key resources, practice and policies related to LGBTQ health. The results of this survey elucidate opportunities to improve upon Women’s Health staff training on the LGBTQ community.