Amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, healthcare organizations are finding it necessary to address something we had silently thought we had already addressed — treating all patients equally. But now we realize there may be even bigger gaps than we thought. Ignorance is not bliss; it is ignorance. Whether it is Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter Too or White Coats for Black Lives, diversity and inclusion is more important than ever. According to a Deloitte report, only 32% of American workers believe that their company has an effective diversity effort. Meanwhile, 69% of executives who rate diversity and inclusion an important issue (up from 59%).
All companies should be challenged to reflect on our own feelings, our own actions and what diversity and inclusion mean now and what it should mean. But here I am reflecting on its impact in healthcare.
Cultural diversity in the workplace encompasses the variety of experiences and perspectives that arise from each employee. Experiences and perspectives are different and can be based on race, gender, ethnic group, age, sexual orientation, personality, cognitive styles, religion, tenure, organizational function, education, heritage, and much more. Cultural diversity is born from the values, norms, and traditions of an employee that impact the way she/he typically perceives, thinks, interacts, behaves, and makes judgments.
Diversity impacts healthcare on many levels, both from the care provider and from the healthcare recipient.
Healthcare recipient (consumer). This is a very challenging and complicated area for consideration. Questions and barriers to health such as access to care, affordability of care, ability to maintain treatment of care, culture and potential language barriers can exist, many times unbeknownst to the care providers. As a nation, we have been silently aware that certain people were more susceptible to diseases, but this especially came to the forefront during Covid-19.
Care provider (nurse). We need to challenge ourselves. Diversity and inclusion need to start at the recruitment for education time period. In spite of all the efforts made by universities, hospitals, etc, are the same opportunities available to all in both education, career opportunities and promotions? Additionally, culture, language, and religion need to be taken into consideration. The nursing team is a team, and each member is valuable and needed. Care providers need to be and feel a part of this. It provides a sense of purpose and belonging. Additionally, cultural competence is a necessary component; responding appropriately to people of varying backgrounds, recognizing differences and allowing people to feel respected and valued.
Employees. Many healthcare facilities have included diversity as part of their overall mission, but there needs to be diversity and inclusivity within internal teams. To be aware that each person is unique and brings their own perspective and valuable experience (both professional and personal), adds value to our own culture. Have a strong Mission/Value statement and live those values. Diversity, in regard to numbers and demographics, is not enough; being inclusive is required.
In my next post, I’ll address the misconceptions that hinder inclusion efforts and an action plan for getting a D&I initiative running at your organization.