We live in a culture that thrives with diversity. Think about a diverse workplace as you would a work of art. Imagine a hospital stretched on canvas. Then, picture the physicians, nurses, and staff as the paint. Having more colors makes that canvas come alive. More like us. With more diversity in health care, the more vibrant and interesting the care becomes.
Diversity in Health Care: By the Numbers
Minorities account for more of the population today. Shouldn’t that be represented by diversity in health care? If we’re not representing the population, how will we represent our patients?
According to AAMC, less than 9% of physicians identify as a race besides Caucasian. Black Americans only make up 4% of the current physicians in the workforce nationwide.
Physician Demographics by Race:
- White: 48.9%
- Asian: 11%
- Hispanic or Latino: 4.4%
- African American: 1.1%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.4%
Medical School Graduates by Race & Gender (2012)
- White men: 6,763
- White women: 5,533
- Asian women: 2,434
- Asian men: 2,427
- African American women: 880
- African American men: 517
- Hispanic or Latino men: 766
Physicians are not one shade fits all
The problem with having little diversity in health care is that it reinforces an unconscious bias. However, until we can mirror the face of the patients with their doctors we will not be able to build those positive relationships, increase trust, and gain patient satisfaction. Having a diverse range of providers in health care teams offers a wider scope of experiences, skills, and points of view.
Minority patients are more likely to feel uncomfortable reporting a bad experience than their white counterparts. Also, some minority patients who suffer from communication barriers don’t necessarily feel “at-home” among an all Caucasian healthcare team.
Addressing the Problem
Another issue is promoting the education of minorities, women, disabled, veterans, and LGBT people is essential to building the future face of healthcare. As if surviving medical school wasn’t enough. In addition, organizational change would help create more positive practices and breaking down the unconscious bias would make patients feel more at ease. More diversity in health care would also help with the national staffing shortage.
“When you try to increase diversity in medical education and residency programs, I think people get confused [because] they assume this is just another affirmative action thing,” said Dr. McDade chair of the AMA Council on Medical Education and deputy provost for research and minority issues at the University of Chicago. “There’s actually a practical reason for increasing diversity of the student population: Evidence suggests that minority physicians disproportionately care for minority populations. So when we talk about diversity in medical schools, we’re actually talking about communities and lives that are at risk.”
Setting the Record Straight
Finally, until we are able to get more diversity in healthcare programs we aren’t going to see the next generation of physicians in any shade but white. A common misunderstanding when it comes to the concept of diversity is that it is simply interchangeable with race. Developing a diverse workforce includes other factors as well. For instance, sexual orientation. When it comes to discussing treatment options regarding STDs or parenthood planning having a Queer doctor makes a big difference. The same argument can be made for patients who are not native English speakers. In addition to reflecting the values of our patients, we should try and think and communicate like them as well.
In conclusion, diversity in health care is another barrier that we need to cross as a field. As the faces of our country changes, so too should the portrait of our profession. What do you think of the state of diversity in health care? Share your opinion in the comments below!Looking to find a new Locum position?