After the death of George Floyd, people have taken to the streets to protest against racial injustice. People are marching, not just in America, but all over the world. Although systematic racism in America has come to light this past month, there’s no denying that this problem isn’t a new one.
As we learn more about these protests and the injustices that ignited them, many of us are reflecting on what we can do to fight against racism in our everyday lives. Although it’s hard to admit it, discrimination can even be found in our healthcare system. Compared to white patients, minority groups are more likely to receive lower-quality care.
Companies and organizations across industries are reflecting on their culture and are seeking new ways to weave equality into their operations — but it’s up to all of us to make our world one of equal treatment and opportunity.
So, what can healthcare workers do at their workplace to tackle discrimination?
These suggestions will help point you in the right direction.
Keep An Open Mind
We often link the word “racism” to overt discrimination in the form of hate speech or individual beliefs. However, racism can be systemic, meaning that some of your workplace’s policies and practices might result in the exclusion of certain groups. So, although you and your coworkers may not hold discriminative sentiment, it is still important to assess your workplace together and determine whether it works for everyone, both workers and patients.
Confronting racism can be intimidating but with respectful dialogue and the right resources, we can all learn to improve our healthcare centers and hospitals for everyone.
Not sure where to start?
There are plenty of resources available on websites like the NAACP resource page, as well as literature, as well as movies and TV shows that reflect black lives in America. Keep in mind that while social media is a quick way to stay updated on current events, it should not be your sole resource for learning.
These are unnerving times for everyone, but even more so for your black and brown colleagues and employees. Give them the space they need to process their feelings — they may feel angry, sad, afraid, or even detached from some aspects of their work. With this in mind, it’s best to avoid relying on them to educate you about the cause of their hurt. Now is the time to do your own personal research in order to understand these current events.
Understand the Statistics
Discrimination grows when we hide it in the shadows. The only way we can work to better our communities is to discuss our issues at hand. With your team, sit down and acknowledge the injustices that have happened in the past or are happening currently both within the walls of your workplace, and the entire healthcare industry.
Did you know that in America, black women are 243% more likely to die from childbirth or pregnancy-related causes than white women? Research shows that this drastic difference isn’t due to genetics or differences in physiology. Instead, studies show us that it is likely an inability to address a black woman’s health needs that leads to this astounding statistic. Does your hospital share similar statistics? If so, now is the time to find a solution on how to tackle this issue.
When we see injustice and it does not impact us directly, we are often tempted to stay silent to avoid being involved in conflict. Sometimes, we avoid the topic of race altogether in fear that we ourselves could appear prejudiced. You might not be completely confident about what the right words are, but all that really matters is that you’re speaking up at all.
Don’t let oppressive or racist attitudes ruin the experiences of your colleagues and patients. Discriminatory words are bound to hurt, but the receiver of those harmful sentiments might not feel safe enough to speak up for themselves. Be an ally and condemn any actions that contradict the pro-social values of your workplace.
Keep in mind that you should be an advocate for your patients as well as your colleagues. Though limited access to healthcare does play a major role in black healthcare disparities, bias against black patients is a significant factor in healthcare discrimination. Studies show that black patients in need of more complex medical help are less likely to get it than white patients with the same needs. If you see that someone is asking for help and are not getting an appropriate response from their healthcare professional, don’t be afraid to speak up.
Workplace diversity is a valuable asset, especially in a healthcare center. Moving forward, it is essential that employers recognize this and establish a workplace culture that consists of both diverse staff and diverse leadership. A diverse healthcare landscape cultivates faster innovation and better healthcare for patients of all kinds. This is because a diversified staff reduces the likelihood of hidden bias, which can often lead healthcare professionals to make detrimental mistakes.
For example, black women receive less medical intervention when they report pain, as their medical providers often assume they are overexaggerating their pain levels. Of course, this kind of bias is one we all need to unlearn. But with a black health professional present to give their opinion, a black patient is significantly more likely to receive the appropriate help.
A diverse staff is important, but real equity begins with diverse leadership. If you have diversity among the leaders in your workplace, don’t just consider more equitable hiring techniques — find ways to make your promotions equitable as well. Speak to your employees. Do they feel that they have an opportunity for growth and advancement? Do they feel like they have a role model on staff that they can look up to?
Keep in mind, these are only a few steps you can take to help bring your workplace toward the right path. Confronting discrimination is a hard and painful process, but it’s something we owe ourselves and the people under our care.
We at ProMed believe that every patient should feel safe and properly cared for. Let’s work together to put an end to racial discrimination in America.