Monday, November 29, 2010

The TSA and HIPAA

The TSA is looking at us through our clothing and / or touching our bodies outside of our clothing, to see if we have weapons and / or explosive devices. I personally don’t care. Since having three babies, multiple pregnancies and lots of complications, I am basically immune to being looked at by strangers who probably could care less about what I look like naked unless of course there is something there that they are looking for. I feel very safe when I fly now.

The problem is not that they are looking at us, the problem is how we are treated, as human beings. This can be especially stressful for transgender people. Transgender being an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from what they present. Working closely, the last year with transgender patients, I have learned that many transgender people don’t want to acknowledge their own body, why should they allow someone else to acknowledge it? Many transgender patients avoid medical care altogether to avoid this inner turmoil. Avoiding care becomes dangerous to anyone who needs to see a medical professional. But would they, or should they have to give up flying for this reason? I don’t think so.

I am not sure what the training is with the TSA but I do know that people in healthcare go for training in privacy. HIPAA has become a common term used in healthcare to keep lips sealed but I guarantee you many people don’t even know what it is used for. We do know that in medical treatment, our privacy is protected. Why then aren’t TSA employees given the same training in privacy and courtesy?

Training can be simple, talk to people about their issues and concerns about being groped or viewed. Learn about the person as a person, not just a number. Hospitals are being pressured to focus on “patient centered care”, viewing the patient as a person. It is not time consuming but it is a different way of working and training. I’m not saying that a TSA employee has to take a customer out for dinner and get to know them, but they should be taught to treat each flyer as they would want their own mother or sister treated. When famous people go for surgery, have a baby or are treated by a medical professional, we can be assured that the information will be protected and in most cases, the patient will be treated respectfully.

Medical professionals will someday be patients and want to be treated with dignity and respect. Unlike airline employees who fly and are seen with their full uniform and treated with courtesy as they go through the scanner, medical professionals who are hospitalized are forced to wear the same exposing garments as us plain folks. Maybe we should start putting TSA employees through scanners too for the public to view.

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