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Special Considerations for Healthcare, When It Comes to Diversity, Inclusion, and Bias

Recognizing that there’s a lot of work to be done to address healthcare challenges in diversity, inclusion, and bias, HealthStream recently began working on an expansion of training options in this area with Jeremy Short, a diversity and inclusion practices expert. We recently spoke to Short about what effective diversity training looks like and why it is vitally important for healthcare organizations, individuals who work in healthcare, as well as patients and their families. This blog post continues a series of excerpts from the article based on our conversation.

HealthStream: What are the issues connected to diversity and inclusion that affect patient care?

Jeremy Short: During a difficult test or procedure, you need to feel comfortable and safe that you are working with someone with your best interest at heart. That requires solid communication, awareness, and understanding of the patient population, as well as established trust, so that what you say as a doctor is reflected in your behavior. For the best outcomes, representation matters. Some people may prefer to be treated by a caregiver of a specific gender or race in order to really be heard and understood. Representation matters, and you still get the benefits of diversity.

Bias can lead to problems in healthcare. An American Journal of Public Health study showed that two-thirds of primary care doctors harbor biases toward their African American patients. As a result, they spend less time with black patients and involve them less in their own medical decisions. The tragedy is that these physicians aren’t aware they’re treating African American patients any differently.

These conditions can create a healthcare environment where black people don’t feel welcome. They can start avoiding doctors and treatments, and reduced access to healthcare increases diabetes and heart disease at a higher rate than other racial groups. It also leads to disparities in care. For example, African American infants are approximately 2.3 times more likely to experience infant death, regardless of income and education, and African American mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth. These are just a few examples of how diversity and inclusion matters in a healthcare environment—trust and relationship between the provider and patient is critical. We have to get away from blame and work toward solutions. Though there may be times when the reasons are intentional and even racist, I believe it’s often due to lack of awareness.

HealthStream: What is unique about the need for diversity and inclusion training in healthcare?

Jeremy Short: When it comes to healthcare, there are literally lives at stake. It’s critical for our organizations to bring the best and brightest employees to the table, enable them to be productive and empower them to drive results. More diversity in a candidate pool gives you a better chance of truly finding a top performer—not just the top performer of the pool that you happen to have recruited. Let’s build stronger and bigger candidate pools for making hiring decisions. When it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, people often ask, “When two candidates are exactly the same, do you have to hire the minority, the person of color, or the woman?” During 25 years in human resources, I’ve never seen two candidates who are exactly the same.

You have to take the bias out of the interview process, the recruitment process, the hiring process, and then make your assessment. Focus on attracting the best and the brightest, giving them the tools necessary to be successful, and empowering them to learn. Then you know that you are treating people better and more effectively.

Our Q&A with Jeremy Short, a diversity and inclusion practices expert, focuses on what effective diversity training looks like and why it is vitally important for healthcare organizations, individuals who work in healthcare, as well as patients and their families. Download the full article.

About Jeremy Short

For more than 20 years, Jeremy Short has held a number of progressively responsible roles directing and leading Human Resources initiatives. Short is currently the Director of Talent Management and Development at a health system in Ohio and is an Adjunct Professor of Human Resources Management at Baldwin Wallace University. Previously, he was the Director of Diversity and Inclusion, subsequent to his being a Director of Human Resources, at Sherwin- Williams. Short is also the President of the Cleveland Advisory Board of the Ohio Diversity Council, the Awareness Chair for the Northeast Ohio Military Employers’ Consortium and is a member of the Greater Cleveland Commission on Economic Inclusion’s Diversity Professionals Group. Short earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Brenau University in Atlanta, Georgia. Short has extensive experience and proficiency in large-scale change initiatives, fostering employee engagement, policy management, recruitment, training, individual development planning, employee relations issues, succession planning, and compensation management.

HealthStream Diversity & Inclusion Training

We live in a culturally diverse, multi-ethnic and racial environment. Perhaps that is never more apparent than in the healthcare setting. Patients, providers, employees, and volunteers are members of these different groups. This library of courses contains content that is intended to create awareness, influence behavior and improve an organization’s culture. Having a workforce that understands the importance of recognizing unconscious bias, of diversity in the workplace, cultural competence, and health literacy not only improves peer-to-peer relationships, but also caregiver-to-patient relationships. Learn more.

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