Many healthcare organizations are celebrating diversity, and acknowledging the significance of the intersection between culture and healthcare. Recent years have brought racial disparities in the industry to the forefront, which were further exacerbated by an American health system pushed to its limits by a global pandemic.
The emphasis on practicing cultural humility in healthcare can create a patient-centered model where practitioners work to meet people inside their locus of comfort in pursuit of improved overall outcomes.
A policy cornerstone of the initiative is diversity, equity, and inclusion training (DEI). By making workplaces more nuanced and aware of and desiring staff diversity, and fostering an environment of equal and equitable engagement, healthcare professionals can achieve better overall results that translate to improved health outcomes for those they’re watching over.
Understanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not unique to the healthcare industry. Through conversation aimed at defining what makes a company stronger, emerging themes began to shine related to an organization’s “change power”.
An organization’s change power—its ability to enact change—became associated with positive organizational characteristics like better financial performance, strong culture and leadership, and greater employee engagement. As the conversation became more refined, it became evident that DEI was a key component.
Diversity means valuing the identities and backgrounds—like race, ethnicity and various other important factors—of employees and clients of all types. A diverse workforce can compliment diversity in the patients being served.
Equity for employees means setting each member of the workforce up for success equally, and making sure they have what they need to do their job effectively. Equity for the patient means appreciating their individualistic needs and working to fulfill them.
Inclusion involves giving all members of the workforce a voice, and a medium to advocate for their needs as a member of the team. For patients, it can be as simple as allowing them to be partners in their own care, and giving them access to high-quality care independent of their background.
Barriers to DEI
Few healthcare leaders would refute the advantages of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their health system. Dramatic benefits related to workforce culture, productivity, revenue (150-300%), shareholder returns (200%), and subsequent care provided to the patients are hard to overlook. Why then, are some healthcare organizations still struggling to gain traction in their DEI efforts?
Implicit biases are our reactions and responses towards others driven by our own lived experiences, that, in spite of being unintentional, can have tremendously negative impact on healthcare outcomes.
Without an awareness of how our responses can potentially harm the patient being served, DEI has no foundation to flourish. Healthcare workers need to be conscious of how their own feelings towards others manifest, and how to manage those feelings appropriately to create a more DEI-oriented workplace.
Before diversity, equity, and inclusion training, it may be necessary to engage in implicit bias training. Courses like Implicit Bias: Weight Stigma in Healthcare by Premiere will help identify the root of implicit bias and its impact on healthcare.
Lack of DEI as an Organizational Priority
For a healthcare system to have any hope of creating a successful DEI initiative there needs to be strong stakeholder buy-in and a declaration of DEI as an organizational mandate. The reality is, healthcare is a business, and it’s never without competing priorities.
Advancing DEI by organizational leadership should come in several forms. It needs to be evident in the allocation of resources, and in the direction of training and education. It should also be evident in the creation of policies and procedures that will hold people accountable for their actions. For example, zero tolerance of behavior that can sabotage the infusion of DEI into the workforce culture and needs to be implemented swiftly.
Lack of Training and Education
Just as implicit bias is something one might not be aware of, a lack of knowledge in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion can also be overlooked. It sounds so simple: support diverse populations, foster equity amongst your staff and patients, and be inclusive of all walks of life. But how do we put those concepts into action and support our staff in their own self-awareness to optimize patient outcomes?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion training developed by dedicated experts is critical for supporting DEI initiatives in healthcare. Human beings are complex, and highly informative, insightful educational content can open doors and minds for better DEI implementation. Anti-discriminatory Practice as Cultural Competence with LGBTQIA+ Patient Populations by Premier is an example of a great place to begin.
Supporting DEI for Healthcare Professionals
Many DEI concepts can be new and unfamiliar to the average healthcare worker, and it’s not always obvious how to move forward even with the best intentions.
Education that can be combined with meaningful group efforts in structuring diversity, equity, and inclusion training can take what may seem like nebulous concepts and turn them into measurable efforts. Keeping track of metrics like recruitment and retention, or how well diversity is distributed across your organization can serve as both a baseline and a measure of progress.
It all starts with education. Premiere features a wide variety of DEI continuing education courses on a range of important topics. Courses like Anti-discriminatory Practice as Cultural Competence with LGBTQIA+ Patient Populations created by Premier’s Brian Masciadrelli, PhD, LICSW, LMSW offer an ideal place to begin making a positive change for everyone in the workplace.