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The x-ray appointment started off like any other for Sidsel Pedersen, a medical radiation technologist (MRT) at a Calgary clinic and an instructor in the MRT program in SAIT’s School of Health and Public Safety.
She picked up the requisition form for her next patient, saw it was for a boy needing an x-ray, and called out for “Henry” — the name typed on the form. That’s when the child’s mother looked at Pedersen and said simply, “This is Harriet.”
It took Pedersen a moment to realize her patient was transgender and identified as a girl. And then it took another moment for Pedersen to work through how she needed to change her medical questions as she prepared Harriet for the x-ray.
“Radiologic technologists must know whether a patient has male or female reproductive organs so we can shield those organs properly from ionizing radiation,” Pedersen says.
Later that day, Pedersen talked through the experience with her clinic colleague, Virginia Sanders.
“We always teach our students the importance of reflective practice and, upon reflection, Virginia and I realized we need better ways to communicate with transgender patients,” Pedersen says.
“I teach about radiation protection and safety, which is all about asking patients the right questions. But in our research, Virginia and I couldn’t find anything to specifically help MRTs ask about a patient’s reproductive organs in a respectful and dignified way.”
That led Pedersen and Sanders (now living in California) to create a session called Gender Diversity — It’s the Parts that Matter. It raises awareness among MRTs of the many different categories that make up the gender continuum, and the importance of providing a gender-friendly environment.
Pedersen and Sanders presented the session to the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists, which awarded them its annual speaker award and sent them to present the session at ASRT@RSNA — the world’s largest scientific and educational meeting for the radiologic sciences — in Chicago last November.
“Our presentation teaches practical ways to create a safe space,” Pedersen says. “Studies tell us transgender people often feel vulnerable during medical appointments, so we offer MRTs suggestions to make these patients feel more comfortable during our short time with them and, ultimately, to ensure their safety during x-rays.”
Photo by George Webber