The United States healthcare industry is forever growing and changing. It needs to be innovative and fast-paced to make advances within the workplace. There has to be a wide variety of perspectives and collaborating ideas as society continues to develop and transform. Yet, we are still seeing the same statistics of people dominating in the health industry, white males.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is not a new phrase. The concept has been around since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, and has since become a prominent topic of discussion in the workplace. But what is the importance of DEI in the workplace, and specifically in healthcare?
There are numerous reasons why people of different backgrounds and identities need to be represented in the healthcare industry. One of those reasons is cultural competency. This refers to the ability to provide adequate healthcare to people of diverse cultures and values. Healthcare professionals must be aware of how their own cultural beliefs may differ from their patients beliefs, and will still be able to treat them just as fairly as someone who may have the same cultural values as themselves. Cultural competency is so important in healthcare because lives can be at risk and there should be no outside factors involved in providing safe and proper care to patients. However, as we all know, there are still prominent disparities in our healthcare system that stem from a system of racial inequality.
“People of color experience greater incidence and more severe cases of diseases compared to white people in the United States”Jayoung Kim, “Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity in Healthcare During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Racial inequality in United States is not just an issue of the past. It is still seen everywhere and the healthcare industry is no exception. Another reason DEI is important in healthcare is for increased patient trust and comfort. A Stanford study in 2018 showed that Black patients who were treated by Black doctors were more likely to seek preventative services than those who were treated by non-Black doctors. The problem is, we don’t have enough of this diversity represented to help gain patient trust.
Despite all of the benefits of having representation in healthcare, the numbers are still showing an alarming lack of diversity. As shown in this diagram, an overwhelming amount of physicians in the U.S. are white males, while only 5% of physicians identify as Black or African-American. In regards to nurse practitioners, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, majority are white females. So where does that leave the intersectionality of Black women in healthcare?
“In 2023, Black women represent only 2% of the U.S. medical faculty at large”ABC News, “Black women and the struggle of health care access”
This lack of diversity is shown to be contributing to the disproportionate effects that diseases and other medical ailments have on people of color. From birth defects to increased chance of contracting chronic illnesses, studies are showing Black patients as being at higher risk which is partly due to the lack of patient trust from their physicians. Additionally, the amount of Black women in medical school as of 2019 was only 3.2%. So this inequality within healthcare is still going to remain an issue for the United States if change is not made.