PEI

Psychologist aims to help P.E.I. health professionals offer better care for transgender patients

The former president of the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health is visiting P.E.I. with the aim of speaking with local health-care providers on how they can better support trans Islanders before and after transition. 

Susset says she wants to help local health-care professionals feel more 'confident'

'We need to go further. There's efforts in many provinces, some provinces have gone further. But we really need to push more,' says Françoise Susset. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

A clinical psychologist based out of Montreal is on the Island speaking to local health-care providers on how they can better support transgender Islanders before and after they transition. 

Françoise Susset, the former president of the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health, has been helping trans youth and adults before and after their transitions for more than two decades. Much of Susset's work also centres on dealing with trauma. 

Over the next few days, Susset will be brainstorming and talking with some of the Island's medical community as part of the Collaborative Training for Transgender Health program, organized by Health PEI and the Transgender Health Steering Committee.

"I was invited by Health PEI to come and meet with health-care professionals who are interested in transgender health," Susset said. "Who are actually interested in offering services to a population that is really, pretty desperately in need."  

Making health-care professionals 'confident'

Susset said her job while on the Island is to "help professionals feel more confident in their ability to serve these populations that are woefully underserved."

Providing medical care and support to transgender patients can include offering hormone treatment and writing letters of support for surgeries which are ultimately irreversible, Susset said.

"As long as professionals feel that somehow the burden is on them to somehow decide whether the person is appropriate, whether their statement of gender identity is genuine ... as long as that's the paradigm then professionals feel very nervous." 

What we need is for people to be less afraid.— Françoise Susset

She said she wants to encourage professionals to use an informed consent model of practice, "which is as soon as you've determined your client or patient is able to consent to care ... then our responsibility shifts to help the person prepare for whatever may come their way during the transition process."

At the moment, Susset said, a lot of trans people seeking treatment are travelling to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for services that could be administered on P.E.I. 

"What we need is for people to be less afraid." 

'I hope people feel empowered by the information [Susset]'s giving, to better care for their patients,' says Rebekah Condon, PEERS Alliance's interim executive director. (Rebekah Condon)

'Very encouraging'

Susset said the gap in care for trans Islanders comes from a lack of knowledge, education and physicians available to treat people on P.E.I.

"What's very encouraging is that we were barely through the first day and people were like, 'Ok, what do we do? How do we create pathways for people to access care? How do we become visible as professionals to the trans community so that they find us?'" 

We hope what this will do is facilitate the ability for trans folks to access care on the Island.— Rebekah Condon

Health PEI staff and health-care professionals from across the Island are going to come up with recommendations based on the sessions with Susset, of how to make the system more accessible and functional for the trans community.

Rebekah Condon, interim executive director for P.E.I.'s PEERS Alliance, said she's encouraged by Health PEI's initiative.

"I hope people feel empowered by the information [Susset]'s giving, to better care for their patients," Condon said. 

"We hope what this will do is facilitate the ability for trans folks to access care on the Island," she said. 

Susset said Prince Edward Island is on par with many other provinces and the care they offer, but there's a lot more to be done. 

For instance, many surgeries required for the trans population, she said, are viewed and treated by the health-care system in its current form as elective or cosmetic surgeries. That needs to change, Susset said. 

Susset raised the example of breast augmentation surgery. She said for trans women that surgery is not cosmetic, and not having access to that service has, in some cases, led trans women to suicide. 

"We leave people sort of in limbo. We need to go further. There's efforts in many provinces, some provinces have gone further. But we really need to push more." 

More P.E.I. news

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story misidentified Françoise Susset as president of the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health. She is a former president.
    Sep 19, 2019 12:13 PM AT

About the Author

Sam Juric

Web Writer

Sam Juric is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. and can be reached at samantha.juric@cbc.ca.

With files from Main Street