Trans and non-binary folks seeking health services in the Columbus area are familiar with Mimi Rivard, Equitas Health’s lead trans health provider, but there is a new provider on our Short North Medical Center team. She’s building her own cohort of patients and is ready to help each person she serves explore their own transition journey.
When Ashley Laughlin returned to school after eight years as an intensive care nurse, one of her goals was to work with populations that otherwise would not have access to quality healthcare. Now Ashley has built her “dream” career as a Nurse Practitioner at Equitas Health. She finds new ways every day to build connections with patients, explore trans medicine with an open mind, and create a safe and affirming healthcare setting.
Ashley dealt with some initial nerves having entered the field of trans medicine with little specialized training, but her mentor, Equitas Health Nurse Practitioner Mimi Rivard, likes to remind her, “you can teach the technical stuff.” According to Mimi, our lead Trans Health provider, it’s the person, the personality, and the capacity to care that makes someone a good fit for Equitas Health’s Trans Health team.
“It’s been […] a ton of learning,” Ashley says, “and every day is a hard day, but at the end of every day I feel like it’s right where I’m supposed to be. It’s equal parts emotionally exhausting and emotionally fulfilling.”
For Ashley, trust-building is one of the most critical parts of providing trans healthcare. That’s why Equitas Health providers schedule an hour with each new trans patient. It’s also why Ashley values the relationship she forms with each new patient more than any other aspect of her work. Some of the questions she and the other providers ask are personal and vulnerable. Some patients share quickly, while others need more time.
Ashley understands that she can’t expect there to be a routine progression of services. “People are at different places in their journey and their transition. Part of my job is to hear them out and figure out where I can fit in, and to take it one step at a time.”
The focus on the individual is really important to Ashley. Her job, at its core, is to listen and help in the most non-threatening way possible. It’s about more than just people coming in for their allocated slot, she says, but about creating a patient-led healthcare plan for each person.
The Equitas Health approach to Trans Health empowers the patient to decide what their gender-destination is. Rather than impose a journey from one point on the gender binary to another, our providers ask patients to define their own course. The Nurse Practitioner’s role is to be there to help patients navigate the healthcare field and transition safely. The job is about respecting where someone is in the transition process, and providing as many resources as possible to help them along the way.
As Ashley put it, “There’s a sense in our culture that you have to decide one way or another, no matter where people identify on the gender spectrum. There’s this idea of deciding, and then committing and getting there. But it’s ok to feel like you don’t need to be on one side or the other of the spectrum, and that you can be exactly who you feel like you are. This in itself is an identity.”
One of the things that has surprised Ashley most about working at Equitas Health is the genuine care and compassion providers show toward patients. She said she’s been “blown away” by the level of time and commitment offered to each individual patient.
It’s the patients themselves though that Ashley’s been most impressed by. She finds the trans patients she serves consistently meet weight and blood pressure goals and diabetes benchmarks—constantly making progress toward a tangibly healthier life.
Ashley is accepting new patients and invites those in search of affirming trans health services to seek her out at Equitas Health’s Short North Medical Center.
“Come as you are, be honest, you’re safe to tell us what you’re thinking and what your choices are,” Ashley says. “I’m here, and I’m willing, and I’m learning, and we’re getting through it together.”
By Equitas Health Marketing Intern Lisa Hamant.