Embracing Diversity in Health Care
By Kathy Wood, Ph.D., FHFMA, Dean of Health Sciences
In honor of Diversity Day on April 10, 2013, CTU is presenting a blog series from faculty in various program areas to highlight the importance of understanding diversity. In this post, Kathy Wood, Ph.D. explains how the health care field embraces diversity.
Diversity within health care is integral in our ability to provide quality care to a growing population. You might imagine the diversity we see in health care on a daily basis; it’s something we embrace. Diversity is a broad term that includes factors like gender, age, race, religion and culture. When we choose to provide care, however, these and other factors like sexual orientation, education level and socio-economic status are areas of diversity that health care providers must protect from personal judgment.
What happens when diversity isn’t embraced in health care? Underlying prejudices providers have can make it hard to practice good, conscientious judgment with patients, certainly, resulting in unfair treatment. The health care field can bite itself in the foot as well when much-needed health service providers aren’t hired to help meet the needs of the population. As care professionals, we’re trained to do no harm, and we should steer away from the harms that our own prejudices can render.
Thankfully, positive experiences of diversity within health care outweigh the negative. It may be comforting for patients to know that many care providers have a deep desire to help others different from themselves by learning about other cultures and special needs. Of course, health care workers are as diverse as the patients themselves, which adds greater ability for us to provide thorough care for patients. There are interpreters for those who speak different languages so we can ensure they know their particular process of care. Chaplains are available in many facilities to meet patients’ spiritual needs. More examples show that the health care field is more than accepting of diversity, but also expects diversity to change the landscape of the field.
As we continue to become more aware of meeting the needs of diverse groups, health care organizations are prioritizing offering diversity training to their employees along with other opportunities. A comparison of rates among the races shows that there are still far fewer minorities entering college planning to become physicians or other health practitioners. In looking toward future employment opportunities, some health care facilities offer programs for minority mentoring to help with the need for more diverse individuals.
The lack of culturally diverse care workers continues to be a concern for many health care organizations. However, health care organizations can continue to lead in providing opportunities of access to both care and career advancement within the field. Workers can still focus on creating excellent patient experiences by treating all patients with respect. We all can relate to the challenges that follow us, after all, and without the many faces reflecting real-life diversity in the health care landscape, our society wouldn’t have advanced as greatly as it has.
Kathy Wood, Ph.D., FHFMA is the University Dean of Health Sciences at Colorado Technical University. A fellow of the Health Care Financial Management Association (FHFMA) with over 30 years industry experience, she also serves as Director of Chapter Services on the board of the North Carolina Chapter of the NCHFMA. Connect with Dr. Wood on Twitter @CTUHealth.
Stay in the know. Subscribe to CTU’s blog and receive fresh updates directly to your inbox. Join us!
Image credit: Flickr/ReSurge International