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Despite it being 2021, we just can’t seem to fully rid the world of racism and discrimination. There are very few people who can confidently say their skin color, ethnic background, social status, sexual orientation, or other defining factor hasn’t impeded their professional or personal progression in some way. It’s unfortunate discrimination finds a home in industries we should all feel equally safe in such as health care.

Discrimination based on social status, occupation, ethnicity, race, gender, and so forth make victims out of so many people each year in the health care industry. We’ve all been asked to sign the form acknowledging that we understand we have a right to adequate care and treatment no what in any health care facility. Even with this understanding among patients and workers alike, many of these facilities still have discrimination stories for days if walls could talk and more victims felt confident in speaking out against unfair treatment.

We need to prioritize obtaining insight on discrimination in health care and forge a path forward that creates a just health care system that prides itself on honoring our cultural differences, personal perspectives, and individual needs. Here are 4 ways we can remedy discrimination in health care. 

1. Representation Across All Positions 

We should all feel like we have at least one ally in our health care facilities. Those allies are often chosen based on the similarities you have with various patients. There should be adequate representation across all positions in your health care facility.

The health care industry not only faces discrimination issues based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and social status, discrimination based on shape, size, and weight is also a prominent issue. This is why it’s increasingly important to have every race, social status, gender identity, ethnicity, body type, and so forth represented across all positions in every health care facility to ensure every patient feels supported, comforted, and cared for.

The Derm Review furthers this point by stating: “Opening the door to usher in a diverse team offers more than just innovation for successful product creation, but also brings an element of authenticity, which is critical as trust waivers among consumers who question historical body and beauty standards that they cannot relate to — and no longer wish to aspire to.”

2. Adequate Diversity Training

In the wake of the widespread social unrest of 2020, bias within the health care system was further highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Adequate diversity training may be necessary to ensure you aren’t participating in any behaviors or activities that could be deemed discriminatory.

This global pandemic revealed just how disproportionately affected Black and Brown people are when it comes to health care treatment itself. A telling example of this would be how African Americans account for 32% of the population in Louisiana but 70% of COVID-19 deaths. We have to consider that the reason for this racial gap in fatalities is due to a disconnect in the quality of care African Americans receive.

It’s important to prioritize attending every diversity training if at all possible. Diverse backgrounds mean diverse needs, fears, experiences, and expectations. Be fully present and interactive in these meetings. Take an interest in the differences you, your coworkers, and your patients possess and leverage them to better the health care experience in your facility.

3. Lead with Empathy and Understanding

You should display a special level of empathy and understanding when working in the health care industry. In interacting with a diverse group of patients, you must be privy to the cultural, emotional, and physical factors that could affect a patient’s health care experience.

Empathy and understanding build trust. And trust is especially important in the health care industry. If patients don’t trust you, they’re less likely to allow you to do your job at the highest level. They’ll be resistant to routine activities, potentially question your every move, and make the interaction rockier than it needs to be.

As you lead with empathy and understanding in every action, your patient will be encouraged to do the same. Eliminating discrimination in health care is dependent on the changed behavior of professionals AND patients.

4. Take Advantage of Health and Well-Being Resources

Surprisingly, most health care facilities lack in supporting their employees adequately with accessible health and well-being resources. It’s so important that you’re fresh, confident, and constantly bettering your being. If your facility offers health and well-being resources, take advantage of them or offer to put some together should time and scheduling permit.

You must take care of yourself just as well as you take care of your patients. If you’re not prioritizing your mental health, physical wellness, and emotional strength, it will be hard to offer a solid health care experience to your patients. Absenteeism and/or presenteeism will compromise your productivity.

Invest in self-care. Utilize mental health resources like counseling and support groups. Ensure you aren’t overwhelmed emotionally or physically. If you don’t feel good, you won’t be able to perform adequately at work, so take care of yourself.

The fact that discrimination occurs anywhere, especially within health care, is disheartening and disappointing despite increased efforts to remedy its existence. You can help fight discrimination in health care by prioritizing self-care, leading with empathy and understanding in every action, being fully present in diversity training, and advocating for representation across all positions.

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