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Democrats & Liberals

A multiple-editor weblog dedicated to providing news, opinion and commentary for American politics, particularly from the vantage point of the Democratic Party and liberals.

Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2018 20:01:22 GMT

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​Why American Healthcare Needs to Focus on Staff Diversity

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 12:51:57 GMT

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 Unive[...]