#PrideInEducation at the MCRC
Words from Professor Kaye Williams
Members of the LGBTQ+ community can experience prejudice in all walks of life. Within the healthcare setting, an apparent lack of support in areas of treatment means that members of these communities are less likely than heterosexual people to be given written information about the type of cancer they have as well as being less likely to receive information from hospital staff about self-help and support groups for people with cancer.
For this year’s Manchester Pride, we want to recognise the work being done to educate staff and students around equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) here in Manchester and the progression that has been made to ensure that our future healthcare professionals are able to effectively serve all members of the population.
We spoke to Professor Kaye Williams, Leader of the Hypoxia and Therapeutics Group within the Manchester Pharmacy School on her work around EDI, who was highly commended alongside Dr Sally Freeman in the 2017 Making a Difference Awards for their outstanding contribution to equality and diversity.
I’m based in the Division of Pharmacy and Optometry at The University of Manchester and within our division we are preparing healthcare professionals of the future. We recognise that these students serve a very multi-cultural and wide-ranging community and so we have to prepare them with the skillset to deal with all these different and diverse communities.
We are aware that unfortunately many people have bad experiences within the healthcare setting, and through our training, we hope to equip all our students with the skills to enable them to properly serve all of their patients and be able to challenge inappropriate behaviours.
Student Ambassador Project
Alongside Dr Sally Freeman, Head of Social Responsibility for the School of Health Sciences, we set up a Student Ambassador Project, called ‘We get it in Pharmacy ’. We were keen to develop a project where we established some student ambassadors for EDI and trained them to be active bystanders, preparing them for instances of inappropriate behaviours. These ambassadors then act as trained individuals who any of our student body can go to if they witness or encounter any issues.
This has been a really successful project and we have developed this cooperatively with the student body themselves, meaning it is now embedded into the Student Union at The University of Manchester. These ambassadors work alongside staff across the university to deliver programmes around EDI and they focus on healthcare professions to ensure people delivering care are aware that people’s needs differ and that standard of healthcare should be upheld in all groups.
The aims of the project
The overall aim of projects like this is really to produce strong advocates for equal access to healthcare. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that people from the LGBTQ+ community access healthcare differently, and assumptions are made based on their sexuality which aren’t appropriate. In educating this next generation of healthcare professionals, it is hoped that all patient’s needs will be approached with a greater understanding.
We would hope that alongside creating an inclusive environment for our staff and students, that again people would be able to identify inappropriate behaviours, challenge them in a way that is productive and facilitates a cultural shift so that they are prevented in the future.
What this means for patients
In essence, educating healthcare professionals on all these aspects of EDI should ensure that they deliver better care to their patients and thus patient outcomes are improved as a result. Whether this means that these professionals are now asking the right questions to make patients more comfortable, encouraging take up of screening in different communities thus pioneering early detection of things such as cancer or recognising that there are different patient needs within different communities. All of these things will lead to a more inclusive environment for everyone within this healthcare setting and we really hope that our contributions in encouraging constructive communication will help to facilitate this change.
Hopes for the future
I would hope in the future that compulsory teaching of EDI is embedded into all curriculums in the university setting. That it is particularly important and relevant within healthcare professions as these students will go on to deal with patients from numerous and diverse communities. It is essential that we pioneer this cultural shift and educate the next generation to improve healthcare for all communities, lessening health inequalities.
I would also encourage openness and honesty around discussions. I would like to communicate that there should be no barrier to people within LGBTQ+ communities in any career. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have found Manchester to be a good environment for being open about my sexuality and while I know there is still work to be done, projects such as this are one step towards creating a fully inclusive environment.