How can healthcare administrators attract more diverse candidates and increase diversity among their staff, and why is it important to do so? Risha Grant, a diversity and inclusion expert, shares best practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the healthcare industry.
What is diversity and inclusion?
Grant describes diversity as a basic fact of anyone’s identity. “It’s who you are, it’s your race, it’s your ethnicity, it’s your age, your sexual orientation, it’s your religion,” she explains. “But it’s also your food preferences, your clothing choices, how you rock your hairstyle. It is who you are, point blank, period.”
Grant points out that some people may feel compelled to “close the door” on their diversity when they go to work each morning because they don’t feel like their diversity is valued there. This may look like a quiet coworker who doesn’t seem to contribute — and the way to usher them in is through inclusivity.
To be inclusive means creating an environment that is welcoming and helpful to everyone. “Who are you sitting next to on a daily basis that you can teach to play the game, to be part of the team?” is the question Grant suggests we all start asking.
Understanding different types of bias
When it comes to practicing inclusivity among diverse sets of people, there’s a chance you may encounter bias, which comes in the forms of unconscious bias and validated bias. “The most pervasive issue that is affecting us today [is] unconscious biases, and not just [from] us as individuals, but [from] us within our companies, our culture,” Grant remarks.
Unconscious bias is a basic process in which our brains go on “autopilot,” taking in information about people around us and using it to navigate interactions in our day-to-day lives. This is called a bias synapse, or “BS.” There is also validated bias, which comes from experiencing actual discrimination or prejudice because of one’s diverse qualities.
Addressing bias to support DEI efforts
To interrupt unconscious bias and increase diversity in our workplace cultures, Grant has come up with a three-step process to help individuals identify, own, and confront their biases.
1. Identify your bias
The first step to disrupting bias is to identify your personal bias synapse, or the “real and unconscious bias.” Grant urges people to try exercises to identify who they may have a bias against, like imagining who you wouldn’t want to sit next to on an airplane and why. The answer to that question is where one’s bias may lay, and that bias is built up and reinforced in our lives by four main drivers: personal experience, friends, family, and the media.
Personal experience comes from the interactions one has personally with different people, which may be positive or negative. Relationships with friends and family, Grant informs us, impact what kind of people we like, trust, or accept into our communities.
Adding to this, the media we consume can convey messaging that impacts our basic understanding of how other people live. As Grant points out, media-based misunderstandings can vary from harmless perceptions to harmful and limiting assumptions — keeping people in boxes that they don’t belong in.
2. Own your bias
Once you have identified your bias, you have to own it. Grant’s advice is simple: Say it out loud so you can hear how unreasonable it really sounds. After this, she says, owning the bias is simple because we can draw on lessons we learned as children — “You don’t call people names or talk about them behind their backs.” That means making an effort to work and play well with others, things most of us have practiced since we were young.
3. Confront your bias
After identifying and owning up to bias, we must finally confront it, but this isn’t as difficult as it may sound. According to Grant, this means practicing radical acceptance — “allowing people to be who they are and welcoming and embracing people for their full humanity, including your own, without any BS.”
It’s a continuation of owning bias and is a way to start making lasting relationships in different communities. “Meet people where they are, diversify conferences and locations,” she advises. That can look like creating partnerships with businesses and other cultural hubs in communities you want to connect with.
How to address bias in the healthcare workplace
When encountering bias in the workplace, Grant says it is important to be real, honest, and transparent about biases that may be felt by coworkers or members of your team — identity, own, and confront the bias.
It’s also vital to think about how biases can impact the people you serve. Bias, Grant says, can come across to patients, and it can impact whether or not those patients trust a healthcare provider to fully address their health concerns. Reminding others of this simple fact could be enough to show them the importance of owning and confronting their bias and how it ripples out to affect others.
For this reason, Grant says it’s always important to address bias in the moment — or at least correct it. For example, if you notice someone being routinely excluded at work, you can make the effort to include them.
The importance of diverse recruitment in healthcare
Not owning up to bias, as Grant points out, can cost a lot. “The discrimination lawsuits are still one of the number one lawsuits filed against companies on a yearly basis. You have to remember that the price of inclusion is a lot cheaper than the price of exclusion.”
Understanding bias in a professional setting can look like examining where your company is hiring from. Grant points out that we’re prone to hiring people who look and sound like us or who have similar backgrounds and experiences. In turn, we may overlook and underappreciate the experiences and skills offered by people from different backgrounds. Remaining stuck in these kinds of hiring habits can impact a company’s ability to attract diverse candidates.
Disrupting bias through increased diversity in healthcare
“Diverse markets can be missed opportunities for a lot of companies,” Grant says. “You all are out there recruiting. You have got to look at diversity as part of that recruitment campaign because the world is diverse.”
Patients rely on healthcare practitioners to help them with their health concerns. But if they’re met with providers who carry a bias against them for any reason, they may not get the care they need — and not only does that impact lives, but it also impacts the livelihoods of providers and the success of the places they work.
Bias can be disrupted by simply creating more visibility, such as including diversity in advertisements, so everyone knows they’re welcome. But perhaps most importantly, Grant says, is recruiting diverse people to work with you. According to Grant, diverse companies are “twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times as likely to achieve better business outcomes.”
Working to disrupt unconscious bias is not just an important way to keep diverse staff at your workplace. It can also spur better service for your patients that stems from diverse perspectives.
CHG can help your organization increase its diversity with the doctors, nurses, and allied professionals you need to provide the best care for your community. Contact us by phone at 866.588.5996.