Promoting Diversity in Medical Fields

Our society is comprised of a diverse group of people, and each and every one of us deserves the best healthcare out there. In order to make this happen, it’s important to promote diversity in medical fields.

Underrepresentation

Just by taking a look at statistics, it’s clear that fewer students from racial and ethnic minorities graduate from medical school than white students. Based on data from 2015, 47.8 percent of accepted medical school applicants were white and 58.8 percent of medical school graduates were white. Perhaps it is even more surprising that there are approximately the same number of African American men entering medical school today as there were in 1978.

A healthcare system that lacks diversity can lead to poorer health for millions of Americans. For example, in the field of cardiology, African American patients may receive inferior care for events such as heart attacks and strokes if medical professionals don’t understand the particular needs and challenges of their lives.

Why Diversity Is Important

When nurses and doctors understand their patients’ backgrounds and cultures, they are able to provide more effective treatment. Medical professionals need to have what is known as “cultural competence”–the ability to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of their patients–in order to provide the best care possible to everyone.

It is important that patients feel comfortable enough around their doctors and nurses that they communicate thoroughly. Mutual respect is key to ensuring that this sort of communication takes place. When patients feel like their healthcare provider respects their culture and beliefs, they are more likely to communicate more about their health conditions. Patients also tend to feel more comfortable talking to a nurse with demographics similar to their own. When medical facilities make an effort to hire minority nurses, it can help improve the quality of care a vast number of individuals receive.

Improving Diversity

We know that a diverse group of healthcare professionals can foster cultural sensitivity. By recruiting more minorities to health-related careers and supporting minorities that are already healthcare workers, our society can take simple, reasonable steps toward improving healthcare for millions of Americans. For example, we can encourage minority registered nurses to further their education by attending an RN to BSN degree program. Pursuing higher education will help these valuable healthcare workers obtain the credentials to better our medical system even more.

Healthcare facilities could benefit greatly from workplace diversity training. These programs will help healthcare providers understand how people of different backgrounds view the world through unique lenses. Diversity within the staff at a healthcare facility could greatly increase innovation because of the variety of ideas brought by the employees. Training programs can also provide workers with the information and tools they need to achieve equality in medical practices.

Besides increasing diversity of the staff, it’s also important to encourage diversity of patients. Most healthcare facilities are not designed to accommodate people of different races and cultural backgrounds. Patients should be provided with professional interpreters that can speak the language the patient feels most comfortable using when communicating with doctors and nurses. It would also be beneficial to all if healthcare facilities provided opportunities for patients to give feedback about the care they received. This way, healthcare facilities can collect data about minority care.

Diversity includes more than just race and ethnicity. We must keep in mind that we have to cultivate healthcare environments that provide quality care to people of all cultures, sexualities, faiths, socioeconomic groups, ethnicities, genders, and those with disabilities. Healthcare workers serve everyone, so it’s important to make sure these professionals reflect the diverse communities of our modern world.