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​Why American Healthcare Needs to Focus on Staff Diversity

The United States has long boasted a reputation for being a melting pot of culture and diversity. But in the healthcare workforce, there is a severe lack of minority representation amongst staff that has the potential to be detrimental to the 40 percent of Americans who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group.

Why is having diversity in the healthcare sector so important?

"Diversity in the [healthcare] field is essential because it provides opportunities to administer quality care to patients," writes Erica Bettencourt, a healthcare expert for the Diversity Nursing website. "When the [healthcare] workforce reflects its patient demographic, communication improves thus making the patient feel more comfortable. A person who has little in common with you cannot adequately advocate for your benefit."

In essence, she argues that having a healthcare staff that doesn't represent you might compromise your quality of care, stating, "You might as well have a history teacher in charge of advanced algebra."

Because of this, prioritizing diversity in the healthcare field has become more important over the past few years. As demographic changes continue to shift in the United States, it's important that there are advocates that represent these changing demographics in the healthcare sector.

"While any doctor is capable of treating any patient, minority patients have said they feel more comfortable and can communicate better with doctors who are the same race or ethnicity," writes Dr. Cheryl Archbald, who was once a member of New York's Westchester County Department of Health.

Minority healthcare providers are also more likely than their white counterparts to visit poor and minority communities to encourage them to seek medical treatment and offer culturally competent care. They're also able to promote holistic health, including preventative care, engaging in more healthy, active lifestyles, and encouraging psychological health. When minority populations are proven to have significantly lower life spans than their white counterparts, this effort becomes necessary.

"We need physicians to go into these communities to not only treat people but to educate them and help them become what I call good consumers of health care," Dr. Adam Aponte told the New York Times.

Fortunately, medical training facilities from different parts of the country are starting to take note and make changes in order to draw a more diverse student population.

"Efforts are ongoing across nursing programs to draw in students from diverse backgrounds," according to the Nursing department at Maryville University. Strategies to include students with unique backgrounds and identities, they argue, begin with demonstrating organizational commitment, providing financial support to students who need it the most, and targeting resources to fill the needs of a diverse student population.

Another solution is to introduce pipeline programs to schools that need them most. In these programs, schools, nonprofits, and medical associations provide academic, financial, social and emotional support to minority students, letting them know that the path to medical school is possible in the first place.

"Pipeline programs have been proven to work," Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. "But we need to increase the outreach and the numbers of students participating before we'll see any real increase in the overall numbers of minority students, and we need foundations and nonprofits to redouble their investments and maintain funding."

Schools like Vanderbilt university are a strong example that pipeline programs can be successful. Nearly 25 percent of the students in their school of medicine come from minority backgrounds.

"Pipeline programs are a way of accelerating the process of bringing underrepresented minorities, who add to the richness of the experience of all medical students, into leadership positions in medicine," Jeff Balser, dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine wrote in the same piece featured in The Wall Street Journal,

Diversity in the medical field will only become more prevalent as demographic shifts occur in the general population. For this reason, it's important that communities of color see themselves represented in the healthcare sector. In order to meet future needs, more effort must be given to promote diversity in the medical training population.

Posted by DanikaK at March 20, 2018 8:01 PM
Comment #425637

Hi, DanikaK! I appreciate your contribution to WatchBlog. I think the interest you take in your subject matter is commendable. I wish you the best if you’re pursuing an interest in literature. I sense you may have an interest in medicine. Is that your true calling?

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 21, 2018 12:42 AM
Comment #425668

Is saddens me to read such nonsense from an intelligent woman. To make “race” an issue as to medical outcomes is the bottom of the political barrel.

Posted by: Royal Flush at March 21, 2018 7:34 PM
Comment #425682

Black people in Chicago are taking part in the medical industry in high numbers! You hear about them going to the hospital or morgue every day.

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 22, 2018 4:01 PM
Comment #425697

Wow Weary off to such a good start to bad you didn’t stop with your first comment.

Good job Royal and Weary you made it all the way through your comments without saying anything intelligent. Or factual. Nothing to counter what Dannika has said, nothing to suggest she is misinformed.

Out here in rural America I see minorities all the time. Don’t know the percentages but I don’t consider them relevant anyway. The real issue should be what foreign country should we be going to to get medical care at a reasonable rate.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 23, 2018 12:51 AM
Comment #425710

You can’t say what I said is not factual. There were almost 2 murders a day in Chicago last year. There was more than that in 2016.

There’s a Tellarite in you trying desperately to get out, j2t2. Always an argument with you. Even when there isn’t one you make one up.

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 23, 2018 11:15 AM
Comment #425714

So Weary despite your pleas of factual information it saddens me to say you are wrong. Ask yourself this question “what does minorities being murdered in Chicago have to do with staff diversity at the hospital”? The response you gave us is moronic not factual. Sorry Weary but speaking truth to ignorance is what I do, nothing about “Tellarite” or desperate or making one up.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 23, 2018 12:04 PM
Comment #425715

Ok, are you in favor of assigning a certain number of racially selected people to do the work in hospitals?

Let’s say there are 10 brain surgeons at a specific hospital. All 10 of them are white and score the highest in their class. Do you support firing 6 of them and replacing them with minority brain surgeons who graduated in the bottom tier of their class?

Would they even be needed in Chicago if people quit shooting each other there? If they did stop shooting each other would you still insist the 6 white doctors get fired and replaced with 6 minority doctors?

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 23, 2018 1:52 PM
Comment #425716

Good Grief j2t2. Where will this “diversity” nonsense end? Does ethnicity really make a difference in outcomes if one chooses their doctor, nurse dentist, mechanic, architect, airline pilot, cab driver, or anything else by who looks most like them?

I look for competence in their field above all. All else is simply vanity or hate.

Posted by: Royal Flush at March 23, 2018 4:45 PM
Comment #425755

Staff “diversity” in any given area is going to dependent on the population at large, and their qualifications for the jobs available in that area. It will also be representative of the population at large. Go to an area that is predominantly black,and you will find the majority of those working at the businesses in that area will be black. The one exception would be healthcare. The main reason being the education, and skills needed to work in that field, and the number of qualified applicants in that given area.

Posted by: dbs at March 25, 2018 9:08 AM
Comment #425831

“feel more comfortable and can communicate better with doctors who are the same race or ethnicity”

Posted by: kctim at March 28, 2018 9:54 AM
Comment #425843

Don’t black people always say that white people can’t understand the black experience? It’s true, white people can’t possibly know what it’s like to be black. The same goes for black people. They can’t know what it’s like to be white.

This woman should be demanding a female doctor at least, and if she can get one from her family’s home town, all the better.

None of this will matter if birth certificates don’t have the biological parents on it. Can you imagine erasing half your family’s genetic and medical history simply to make a political statement?

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 28, 2018 8:18 PM
Comment #425847

Quantity over quality.
Feelings over fairness.
This is what happens when you justify actual racism by calling it diversity.

This opinion from Danika does nothing but promote racism and division.

Posted by: kctim at March 29, 2018 8:52 AM
Comment #455929

It is rare to see such as the post. I am glad to visit your site.

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