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Columbia Nursing Offers First Certification in Transgender, Non-Binary Care

Columbia Nursing is launching a professional certificate program—the first of its kind—to prepare nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to provide affirming health care to transgender and non-binary individuals. 

The Certificate of Professional Achievement in Transgender Non-Binary (Trans NB) Health Care for Advance Practice Nurses and PAs will welcome its first cohort in September 2022. The school will host a virtual information session for applicants interested in the program on April 12 at 6 p.m. EST. The application deadline is June 1, 2022. 

The program is for NPs and PAs with little or no training or experience in treating trans NB individuals, especially those in rural areas, where accessing affirming care can be especially difficult, says Laura Kelly, PhD, an associate professor, the director of Columbia Nursing’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, and the founder and director of the new certificate program. 

The two-semester, 12-credit program includes three didactic courses and one clinical practicum, all offered online. Its goal is to give participants the specialty knowledge and skills they need to provide high-quality care to trans individuals, regardless of where they are based. “The goal is really to improve care where they’re practicing now,” Kelly says. Participants can choose to complete the program either full-time or on a part-time basis, extending it over four semesters. Tuition is only $1,000 per credit—a total of $12,000 for the full program. 

Health care providers typically receive scant training on caring for trans NB individuals; Kelly estimates nurses usually get only about an hour’s worth of instruction on caring for LGBTQ+ people in total. “Even if you’re on the East or West Coast, the care for trans folks is lacking,” she says.  

In a 2017 poll, 31% of trans people reported not having regular access to health care, and 22% said they avoided doctors due to fear of discrimination.   

Access to affirming health care can be a matter of life and death. Transgender people are at increased risk of suicide, while gender-affirming treatment sharply reduces this risk. Trans NB people may also need to undergo the preventive care associated with their biological sex—for example, prostate cancer screening for a trans woman who was born male.  

In addition, tactics like confirming a person's choice of pronouns or using gender-neutral terminology when discussing anatomy can improve outcomes for trans NB individuals, helping them become active partners in their personal health care journey. Please visit our web site for more information on the program or to attend the virtual open house