Implicit bias occurs automatically, and though not intentional, it often impacts decisions and behaviors. This type of bias is hard to prevent because people are unaware that they have them.
Implicit bias in healthcare is especially concerning as it can affect the quality of treatment for patients. That’s why implicit bias training for healthcare providers is so important. It helps to ensure that no matter a patient’s race, gender, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, etc. they receive the best care possible.
Implicit Bias Defined
Over 25 years ago, a researcher, Anthony Greenwald, made a lot of people uncomfortable. He developed a test that showed we all have implicit biases that impact how we act toward people and situations.
Over the next few years, more tests were developed that showed that we have unconscious attitudes and actions that are based on race, gender, age, and many others. This is what is called implicit bias.
Implicit means that it is suggested or never directly expressed, but there is an assumption, question, or behavior that results. Explicit is when you clearly state something and are very aware of taking an action based on a preference. An example of this would be responses to seeing someone doing something you do not approve of. For example, say someone throws trash on the road–an explicit response would be to say, “hey, don’t litter” vs. an implicit response which would be you giving them a dirty look but not verbally saying anything.
What Implicit Bias Looks Like
Implicit biases are automatic reactions we have toward other people, based on our own lived experiences. They are unintentional discrimination and can have a negative impact on healthcare outcomes.
Without understanding how implicit biases can change behavior and working to mitigate those biases, entire industries can be affected. With regard to healthcare, the consequences can be particularly severe–delayed care, workplace hostilities, staff turnover and low morale, disability, and even death.
Most who enter healthcare want to help people, not harm them. The trouble with implicit biases is that you may not be aware of them or how they are harming your patients.
Implicit Bias Examples in the Healthcare Industry
Implicit biases have the potential to impact healthcare outcomes in all types of patients. Here are a few examples of well-supported research.
Example 1: Gender-Specific Differences in Myocardial Infarction Presentation and Survival in the US
Men have better outcomes than women. Women are said to have “atypical” presentations when representing 50% of the population.
Why would health care providers count something that occurs in half of all people as “atypical”?
Answer: Almost all research data, diagnosis, and treatment for myocardial infarction were based on white men for the last half-century.
This is a perfect example of implicit bias in healthcare and research. Women and non-white patients were not typically recruited for healthcare research. If research excludes over half the population, data is likely going to miss a big part of the picture in how to care for a disease state or even how to recognize it.
Example 2: Race Can Significantly Affect the Outcomes of Patients in Healthcare
Well-documented results of implicit bias in healthcare show maternal morbidity and mortality are 3-4 times higher in Black American women compared with white women. If we look at other racial and ethnic differences, we find more evidence of worse outcomes.
As of February 2022, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Natives were roughly twice as likely as white people to have died from COVID.
While people may point to the difference in SES, employment and education, and access to insurance could be the cause of these differences, research still finds that Black Americans with good employment and education, and excellent insurance still frequently receive inferior care due to implicit biases.
How Can We Overcome Implicit Bias as Healthcare Providers?
Overcoming implicit biases starts with being aware of them. Sometimes things that make you uncomfortable, lead to the biggest changes. Moreover, it’s for the betterment of your patients.
You might be asking, how you can be more aware when implicit bias is unintentional and often happens in a way you don’t realize. Luckily, tests have been created to help people identify biases. While there are many different options, The Harvard Implicit Association Test from Project Implicit allows you to investigate your biases in private.
Boasting nearly 26 million completed tests, the launch of over 3,100 research studies, and hundreds of peer-reviewed papers published, Project Implicit offers multiple tests and resources to help you become more aware.
According to the website, “Project Implicit is the product of a team of scientists whose research produced new ways of understanding attitudes, stereotypes, and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action.” They use the results to create practical applications addressing diversity and helping people to make better decisions.
There are also other tests that judge things such as race or gender, and some that can even tell you about your implicit biases toward exercise, anxiety, alcohol, eating, and marijuana, along with many others. This gives you an opportunity to learn about biases that you didn’t even know existed and start working to change your mindset.
What States Require Implicit Bias Training for Healthcare Providers?
(Review the chart below to quickly see what your state may require)
|All nurse graduates||Before relicensure|
All healthcare providers
Starting January 2023
All nurses (LPN, RN, APRN)
By July 2023
|Michigan||All healthcare providers except veterinarians||
Before new licenses and at renewals
Eliminating implicit bias has become so important that some states require all healthcare providers, nurses, and other staff to take courses around it. More states may adopt the same requirements as implicit bias can directly affect the treatment and care of patients.
Where Can I Find Approved Training Courses?
If you are looking to find an approved implicit bias training course provider for Michigan, Kentucky, and Illinois, for example, look at the state website of approved training providers.
#1 Premiere Continuing Education is an approved provider of Implicit Bias Training for Healthcare in all states. Our online implicit bias training course begins with testing for implicit biases. Adult learners are then asked to come back to the course and learn about their findings and how it contributes to behaviors toward different groups of people.
We also provide many other highly rated, quality courses for nurses. Additionally, ten percent of our annual profits fund our Last Dollar Scholarship program with built-in mentorship aimed at helping first-generation college students.
If you’re looking for quality courses and a meaningful education, check out #1 Premiere Continuing Education.