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12/13/2017

Pharmacists, Technicians Will Soon Need LGBTQ Education to Practice in D.C.

Kate Traynor

Kate TraynorNews Writer
News Center

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who practice in the District of Columbia have about a year to complete 2 hours of continuing education (CE) that focuses on serving people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, or queer or who question their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression (i.e., persons who identify as LGBTQ).

The LGBTQ Cultural Competency Continuing Education Amendment Act of 2016, which went into effect on April 6, 2016, requires completion of the CE to renew, reactivate, or reinstate a pharmacist’s license or pharmacy technician’s registration.

The new CE requirement applies to all members of the 48 licensed, registered, or certified health professions in the District.

Nicholas Gentile, ASHP’s director of state grassroots advocacy and political action, said he’s unaware of any state that similarly mandates such training for all of its health professionals.

For pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, the District of Columbia’s CE requirement applies to the licensing and registration cycle that ends on February 28, 2019, and is currently underway. Pharmacists’ licenses and pharmacy technicians’ registrations in Washington, D.C., expire on February 28 of every odd year.

Before the act was passed, the District of Columbia Board of Psychology was the only licensing board that required any type of cultural competency CE as a condition of practicing in the District, according to written testimony from Washington, D.C., Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt.

The act states that CE content must, at a minimum, “provide information and skills to enable a health professional to care effectively and respectfully for patients who identify as LGBTQ.” This may include clinical training, the use of cultural information and preferred terminology, information about risk factors and health disparities affecting people who identify as LGBTQ, legal requirements for caring for these people, and other relevant issues.

Vicki Basalyga, director of ASHP’s Section of Clinical Specialists and Scientists and a D.C.-licensed pharmacist, said it was “incredibly forward-thinking” of legislators to require LGBTQ-related CE for all health professionals.

“This will help make pharmacists, technicians, and other patient care providers more aware of the unique needs of these patient populations,” she said.

Carla Williams, assistant general counsel to the pharmacy board, said during the group’s November 2, 2017, meeting that information about where to obtain the required CE credits will be posted to the pharmacy board’s website.

In general, the pharmacy board recognizes CE credits for pharmacists if the activities are sponsored by organizations accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) or the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. CE programs that are administered by a government entity, healthcare facility, or accredited institution of higher learning are also acceptable under the District’s pharmacy rules.

The pharmacy board may also accept CE credit for a pharmacist’s educational activities, such as lectures, workshops, inservice training, and authorship of professional publications.

CE activities that the District’s pharmacy board recognizes for pharmacy technicians include educational sessions sponsored by ACPE-accredited entities, other boards of pharmacy, and institutions of higher learning.

The District’s pharmacy board also has authority to designate additional sources of acceptable CE credit for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

A Gallup poll conducted in 2015 and 2016 estimated that 8.6% of adults living in the District identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The LGBTQ Cultural Competency Continuing Education Amendment Act was introduced in 2015 and received strong support from most people who testified during an October 28, 2015, public hearing convened by the D.C. Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services.

Written testimony from multiple sources that was submitted to the committee in support of the act described poor treatment of LGBTQ persons by healthcare providers. Specific incidents included denial of care, refusal of a healthcare provider to touch an LGBTQ patient, and the use of harsh or abusive language during the healthcare encounter.

Testimony in favor of the act stated that although cultural competency training can be effective, few healthcare providers currently receive training in LGBTQ cultural competency as part of their professional education.

Two organizations — the Medical Society of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Dental Society — testified against the act. Both groups stated that although they support the concept of and need for training in cultural competency, such training should be voluntary. The organizations argued that all CE requirements should be determined solely by professional licensing boards and not by legislative mandate.

The pharmacy board’s regulation describing LGBTQ CE for pharmacists was published on July 14, 2017, and the regulation for pharmacy technicians was published on August 4, 2017.

[This news story appears in the January 1, 2018, issue of AJHP.]