An Open Letter To The Busy Doctor

I know you are tired. I know you work long hours and you don’t have enough time to get all the things done you need to. There is so much expected of you every day.

You are expected not only to be a brilliant scientist who knows every body system down to the cellular level but you are also expected to have highly tuned interpersonal skills and plenty of time for each patient.

Read More

Providing Health Care for Your Transgender Patient

I recently worked with a few transgender patients and I realized how much I have to learn about providing a safe and caring health care environment and experience for the trans community.

My colleagues and I have great intentions, but sometimes good intentions are not enough. Learning and practicing safe language and creating an environment that feels inclusive is important. We must include our trans friends, clients, and patients in our considerations of inclusivity and safety for all populations.

Read More

A New Story is Brewing: What I Learned From My Critics

I have been working with my mentors the last few years on a new health care framework called Empathetic Partnership.

It's for all helping professionals and is meant to be a tool to help providers create safe and effective partnerships with patients or clients. It's a six element framework using women of sexual minority as the example of marginalized populations in need of safe and caring health care. It was published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners in September 2014.

My friends at Washington State University wrote a Press Release about this framework in December. It was so well written and one of the best descriptions of my work I've ever seen or been able to articulate myself. I was so honored to have them share my work. A few days after the press release . . .

Read More

Can You Hear Me Now? An Open Letter To Helping Professionals

The following is a beautiful post written by my good friend Melissa M. Wilcox. She is a survivor of IPV (intimate partner violence). For too many years she was silenced. But she is now standing up and speaking out to share her story. This post is written from her perspective as a patient and client interacting with the health care and mental health system. Her story goes to show how one helping professional can make all the difference in the world.

Read More

Lesbian Health 101

Many lesbian women go to the OB/GYN for their annual exam and, unless previously established otherwise, their health care provider assumes they are straight.

That leaves us lesbian women with a choice: to disclose or not to disclose our sexuality.

I've told the story before of my experience with health care as a lesbian woman, but for those of you who don't know: I was diagnosed with "ego dystonic homosexuality" in 2009, I have been spoken to with medical ignorance during a follow-up visit for a borderline pap test, and have been met with assumptions of heterosexuality by my health care provider.

Read More

The Day My Doctor Diagnosed Me as a Homosexual

Last year, I sat in the exam room with my doctor. She was new to me and I really liked her. As she talked with me, I glanced over her shoulder to the computer screen that was lit up with my electronic medical record. In the list of my diagnosis I saw, "ego dystonic homosexuality."

My gut sank. I was shocked, angry and scared all at the same time.

Read More

The Way You Ask Questions Matters, Doesn't It?

I've been a nurse practitioner since 2011, and in that short time, my practice has shown me over and over that how I ask my patients questions matters. A lot.

I've had patients who have had the grace and understanding to tell me when I've asked questions in a way that lands as insensitive or culturally unsafe. And I know that for each patient who has told me when I've been unintentionally insensitive, I've most certainly had patients who haven't said a darn thing. Maybe they left my office swearing they'd never come back. Or worse, maybe they felt bad about themselves.  Note that as a provider, it's NOT the patient's job to point out your ignorance or lack of knowledge, but sometimes you can learn a lot about providing better care when they do

Read More

Substance Abuse Among the WSW Population

Does the WSW population have a higher rate of substance abuse than the general population?

This is an excellent question and one that needs more research to accurately answer. However, it is believed that women of sexual minority do,in fact, have a higher rate of substance abuse than the general population.

Higher substance abuse rates among sexual minority women makes sense given the social stigma, marginalization, and discrimination of the population in our society.

Read More

How To Do a Self Breast Exam

How to do a Self Breast Exam

Along with many other health care providers, I believe self breast exams (SBE)s are an important part of breast health.

Self breast exams, along with mammography, are often the reason women are able to find and treat breast cancers.

Most women only get clinical breast exams done by their health care providers once a year with their annual exam. So it's important for women to be checking their own breasts on a regular basis in between breast exams done by your health care provider.

Read More

Bacterial Vaginosis: a Common WSW Diagnosis.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis and why do my partner and I keep getting it?

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. BV is not traditionally considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD) but it is commonly found in women who have sex with women (WSW) and can be transmitted between two women.

The vagina naturally has many bacteria residing in it and the balance (flora) of them are all in harmony. With BV, one kind of bacteria (usually Gardnerella) overgrows and changes the natural pH of the vagina, making it more alkaline.

Read More

Breast Cancer: What's My Risk As a WSW?

Is there a higher risk/incidence of breast cancer in Sexual Minority Women?

This is an excellent question and one that has an uncertain answer. First of all, there is little reliable research available to answer this question with confidence. But, it may be true that women of sexual minority have a higher risk or incidence of breast cancer, compared to that of a heterosexual woman.

According to Susan Komen for the Cure, it is estimated that in 2013, 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 64,640 new cases of in situ breast cancer will be diagnosed. Breast cancer is a big risk for women, and less so, for men. It is a difficult and oftentimes devastating diagnosis.

Read More

What Is HPV and Can It Affect Me As a WSW?

Human Papillomavirus and the WSW Population

Genital Human papillomavirus or HPV, is a virus that is responsible for most cervical cancers and genital warts.It is also the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD), according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The CDC also states that HPV can be responsible for throat cancers and cancer of the genitals and anus.

Genital warts often are visible, but the more serious cervical cancer caused by HPV shows no symptoms most of the time unless it's detected early with a PAP smear.

Read More