Creating safe spaces: IWK adds pronouns to ID badges

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A team from IWK Health and prideHealth has recently completed work to allow IWK team members to display pronouns on their official ID badges, supporting all team members to let others know how they identify.

This announcement is being made on May 17: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Creating safe spaces for patients, families and team members aligns with IWK Health’s core values and displaying pronouns is an important component to creating welcoming, inclusive and safer spaces.

Kurt Brothers (he/him/his), nurse, PICU

Kurt Brothers (he/him/his), registered nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and formerly the Emergency Department, was part of the team pushing for this change after witnessing the harm that can be caused when someone is misgendered.

“Working in a clinical setting, I saw firsthand how misgendering someone can be detrimental,” says Brothers. “This is what led me to seek help with this project. I also see a lot of value in using pronouns among IWK staff, as it fosters inclusivity and a safe work environment.”

Brothers recalls more examples than he can count where sharing pronouns could have improved a patient’s experience with the health care system and the IWK. Brothers already wears a pin displaying his own pronouns and found this opened up the door to have conversations about pronoun usage and gender identity with patients in a really safe way. Teams have started recording pronouns as part of patients’ permanent records which is a positive step, but Brothers hopes this display of pronouns will do even more to create safe spaces.

“Making pronoun use a norm in our day-to-day lives is the first step in making people across the gender spectrum feel safe in expressing who they are without fear of bigotry and hatred,” says Brothers. “I’ve seen the change in a patient’s demeanour after they see my pronoun pin and I can only imagine the effect it will have as more staff move toward this practice.”

Creating spaces and experiences where patients feel safe is important and contributes directly to providing the best possible care for all patients, including those in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

“When caring for patients at the IWK, we are often seeing them on one of their worst days. On top of this, people in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community often feel more vulnerable in the health care sector because they feel ‘othered.’ People in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community who have negative experiences regarding their identity may be less likely to seek help when they need it most,” says Brothers. “If we can normalize pronoun usage, it will help our patients with varying gender identities feel safe in expressing themselves at a time where they may feel very vulnerable.”

The display of pronouns is one way the IWK is working to improve the care and experience of patients, families and teams. In working towards being an ally on this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Brothers recommends listening.

“My best advice for those looking to become allies is to listen,” recommends Brothers. “Listen to your co-workers who have lived experiences, listen to your patients, listen to everyone around you. We in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community have had to take the time to figure our own identities out without necessarily being ‘in the norm,’ so I think it is important that allies lend an ear before they act.”