Health-care students across Ontario will be able to learn how to deliver high-quality care to their transgender patients with a free online educational program developed by the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy and McMaster University’s School of Medicine.

“Our goal was to create a module that would give all health-care students a firm basis so that they would feel confident working with the transgender population,” explains Elaine Lillie, project co-lead and Director of Interprofessional Education and Curriculum Development at the School of Pharmacy.

Knowledge deficits or misconceptions from health-care providers can result in unnecessary referrals, discouraging interactions with the health-care system, and suboptimal patient care, says Lillie.

A 2014 study by Trans PULSE found that 21% of Ontarians who are transgender deliberately avoided emergency departments when an emergency visit was needed because they feared discrimination. Beyond that, a staggering 67% percent fear they will die young and, over a period of 12 months, 35% of trans Ontarians reported considering suicide.

“There are unique needs transgender people have that aren’t taught well in our health-care professional schools,” says Michael Lee-Poy, project co-lead, physician, and Associate Clinical Professor at McMaster University’s Department of Family Medicine and Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

TransEd aims to address this gap: composed of eight sections that tackle the diverse aspects of patient care - including psychosocial needs, assessment, surgery, medication, and more - the module is designed for all health-care programs. The development of the module was funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and it is available to any post-secondary health care education program in the province, free of charge.

The online program combines written, video, and interactive content and is modular in design, so that educators can use whichever sections are most beneficial to their programs. Of particular interest are the video interviews with trans men and women talking about their interactions with the health care system.

By grounding the module in experiences of Ontarians who are transgender, and by soliciting content creation assistance from leading experts in the field, Lillie and Lee-Poy said the module provides a wide scope with realistic examples.

Coinciding with the week of Transgender Day of Remembrance, TransEd will be officially launched on November 23 where Dr. Carys Massarella, transgender advocate and physician, will lead the first class taught with the module.

For more information about the module, see the TransEd website.