Why promoting diversity in healthcare matters

Why promoting diversity in healthcare matters

Healthcare organizations are run by a variety of people from various backgrounds. Promoting diversity means recognizing and celebrating the different people who make these organizations feel celebrated and seen. Why exactly have facilities placed more of an emphasis on fostering a culture of diversity in the workplace now, more than ever before? And what are the best strategies for promoting and fostering this culture of acceptance? Today, we look to answer all these questions and more.

Why is diversity important?

The healthcare workforce is more diverse than it has ever been. These days, healthcare providers work with patients and co-workers who come from a variety of different cultures, races and beliefs. Diversity in healthcare recognizes these key differences, which includes (but is not limited to):

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Language and culture
  • Age
  • Socioeconomic standing
  • Religious Beliefs

Promoting diversity means bridging the gap between these different cultures. Our upbringing and backgrounds determine our beliefs and dispositions. By recognizing and celebrating them, facilities make everyone feel more safe and welcome to the healthcare system. Research also shows that facilities with more racial and gender diversity are more likely to outperform less diverse organizations. Naturally, healthcare workers who feel more welcome and comfortable are also more productive. Not only is promoting diversity the right thing to do, it will also pay dividends for the organization as a whole.

How does a facility promote diversity?

Encouraging and hiring a diverse range of applicants will be key to the success of healthcare facilities in the future. While the US population is becoming more diverse by the year, certain demographics remain underrepresented in the healthcare workforce. According to a survey, White nurses make up 80.6% of all nurses, but only 60% of the population.

In comparison, Hispanic, Black and Asian populations have a much harder time finding physicians of the same race. For reference, the Association of American Medical Colleges states that only 6% of physicians are black, compared to 13% of the population. This may seem like a trivial matter, but healthcare is a deeply interpersonal process. Research has shown African American patients are more willing to open up with and trust African American healthcare providers. By having diverse hires, you ensure that patients and co-workers always have an HCP they can truly connect with.

What else can be done?

Everyone on a healthcare staff must know how to handle a number of people from differing backgrounds and beliefs. In recent years, facilities have invested heavily into developing and implementing cultural competency programs that bring the entire staff up to speed. On the face of it, cultural competency is a set of guiding principles that makes HCPs more aware of the importance of culture, how cultural differences affect interactions, and how they can adapt their approach around the perceived differences.  For example: if someone refused further treatment on the grounds of religious regions, strongly insisting or coercing them to accept treatment regardless would be unethical and highly unhelpful.

How is cultural competency promoted?

Cultural competency is promoted with developed training programs, creating a dedicated diversity team for guidance and counsel, and (most importantly) leading by example on the part of the managers. It takes a great deal of investment, but the results are worth it more often than not. When properly implemented, healthcare workers become more effective with navigating these situations and tailoring their approach around them, while maintaining respect for differences in beliefs.

What can happen if diversity is not promoted?

It is a factual statement that bias exists in healthcare, and can cost lives. Seemingly small misconceptions can pile up to create disastrous results. An often cited example is the various false notions that are held of black patients. The idea that they are “more pain tolerant” than other races directly led to them being 22% less likely to receive adequate pain medications, compared to their white counterparts. This is not an act of malice, but rather a series of mistakes that come as a direct result of racist ideas that are deeply ingrained into the social consciousness.

Meanwhile, outward discrimination can prevent minorities from receiving proper health care outright. Many LGBTQ+ individuals recount experiences where life saving medications or treatment have been withheld from them, because of what they identify as. These struggles are not exclusive to black or gay patients either. Many minorities face discrimination or implicit biases from the healthcare systems they are supposed to trust. Promoting diversity is a crucial step towards combating these stereotypes, and ensuring that everyone receives the same level of treatment.

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