Diversity is a solid pillar of good leadership and policy. In healthcare particularly, a diverse leadership has lasting effects on care delivery.
Why increase diversity?
Improving diversity has the potential to help quality of life and healthcare in disadvantaged communities. A huge concern for most hospitals is decreasing inequalities in healthcare between different groups. Increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the healthcare workforce is essential for acceptable, culturally competent care to our minority communities. Adding diversity to your medical facility at all levels can help bridge that imbalance. Diversity also improves the bottom line.
Patient outcomes can be worse for people from certain socioeconomic and ethnic groups. Patients from marginalized groups, namely poor people and people of color, can have an average life expectancy 16 years lower than non-marginalized people, depending on geographic location. A diverse healthcare workforce will help to expand healthcare access for the disadvantaged, facilitate research in underserved areas of need, and enrich the pool of managers and policymakers to meet the needs of a diverse populace.
Traditionally, diversity referred to people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and gender. However, diversity encompasses a much larger spectrum including life experiences, lifestyle choices, ideas, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. It even takes into consideration the social determinants of health.
Below are some strategies to keep in mind when trying to improve your hospital or medical center’s diversity:
Start at every level
Healthcare systems are keenly aware that diversity among staff, leadership and board members is important to improving patient medical outcomes and reducing health disparities. While diversity in the Hospital Administration Department is vital, each level of your hospital should reflect the patients who commit and trust to getting care at your hospital. Diversity should be rooted into the very culture of your healthcare organization.
Furthermore, your hiring committees should also be diverse. If all the members of a hiring committee are varied and unique, selected new staff members will also be varied and unique. This will impact everything from initial screening to the hiring of diverse candidates. Many healthcare organizations are grooming junior employees from minority backgrounds to become the next generation of leaders to better reflect the growing diversity of the patient and human populations. Also consider working with minority-focused search firms and professional associations to fill open positions.
Use your diverse staff in all departments
Whether being greeted at the door, in the lab department, or talking to the financial aid office, patients appreciate kind and knowledgeable staff. Diversified staff who are kind and knowledgeable brings that experience to a new level. Represent your community by making patients feel welcome because there’s someone with their background working in your hospital.
Extend the expertise
Minorities would value advice from people from similar backgrounds, whether moving into an executive position or being trained in a clinical department. Employees with similar interests or cultural backgrounds could come together for support and work toward common goals. All employees who feel supported in their positions are more likely to stay at your hospital. Generation and personality training can be essential when training a diverse staff.
Hiring diverse employees will make more of an impact if they’re engaged with your hospital’s mission. Use surveys, meetings, and other employee engagement techniques to make sure everyone feels included and committed to your health system. As well, employees appreciate being a part of a diverse team when they are filling a meaningful role. Any employee is likely to retain a rewarding position if they feel valued.
Think outside the box
Again, race and ethnicity aren’t the only types of diversity. Gender, age, and experience can all add valuable perspectives. Millennials can bring a completely different point of view, as will an employee looking to give a healthcare organization five to ten more good years before retirement. Give them a chance when interviewing instead of looking for that “perfect” candidate. Furthermore, look outside of traditional healthcare fields. Candidates with experience in finance, marketing, or human resources can bring fresh ideas to your hospital.
Diversity initiatives will bring new values and viewpoints to your medical facility. Commitment to increasing diversity at all levels of your healthcare organization will infuse new perspectives and insights to your employees, which can help decrease health inequalities for all patients and staff.