4 Ways to Build a Diverse Workforce to Serve Different Patient Populations

Marketing Manager

Healthcare organizations and facilities generally serve many different patients. These patients belong to different demographics, such as age or race, or have a range of complex diagnoses or health needs, such as food insecurity or homelessness.

Research shows that many non-white Americans prefer to choose healthcare providers of their own race or ethnicity. One study found that Hispanic and African-Americans tend to prefer physicians of their own race, language being one significant reason. Another study found that African-American patients tend to be more engaged in their physician visits when the provider is the same race.

These findings suggest that a more diverse healthcare team may be better prepared to serve the needs of a diverse patient population. When minority patients can interact with providers of their own background, it can improve communication and engagement, which can lead to better patient outcomes. This can also mean lower costs and a stronger reputation for the healthcare organization.

Here are some ways that healthcare organizations can build a diverse workforce that helps improve healthcare outcomes and provides more equitable care to their patients.

1. Set your own definitions and goals.

When building a more diverse healthcare workforce, it is important to understand exactly what “diversity” looks like for your organization. Different facilities and communities will have different needs and challenges.

Look at the demographic data of your patients and your workforce and see how they compare. Consider gathering data and feedback on patient satisfaction and engagement. Find out the greatest needs among your patient populations, as well as the most significant barriers to seeking and receiving healthcare. Examine your own organization and look for areas where diversity could use improvement, or where a focus on diversity will yield the most significant results.

Once you have a better idea of where your organization stands, you can start setting goals. Create some specific, measurable goals for a more diverse workforce. Decide how you will measure these goals, how frequently, and what success looks like.

2. Get creative with diversity.

When it comes to diversity, most people think of certain demographics, such as ethnicity or sex. While it is important to recognize the unique needs and challenges among patients within these groups, you may not want to limit your diversity goals to these factors. Consider other barriers that patients may face when seeking a healthcare provider.

For example, older patients may be less willing to see a much younger healthcare provider, so having a healthcare team that is diverse in age may help these patients be more engaged in their care. Likewise, patients who do not speak English as a first language will have a better healthcare experience, and better outcomes, when they can communicate with a provider who speaks their preferred language.

“By building a more diverse health workforce, the United States would improve access and improve outcomes in underserved communities and for high-need populations,” says Toyese Oyeyemi, co-director of the Health Workforce Diversity Tracker project at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

3. Involve all leadership.

While it is important for your clinical staff to have diversity in mind, it is just as important for the rest of your team. Make sure your organization is hiring and encouraging leadership in all departments that are dedicated to serving a diverse community. This will help ensure that the entire organization shares similar goals and values.

Healthcare organizations can also help their existing leaders develop those qualities that support diversity, such as empathy and communication. This development may involve formal training programs, mentorships, or advisory boards. Such strategies can help leaders understand the different perspectives and challenges among their team members and patients.

4. Reduce bias in recruitment and hiring.

Implicit bias in the hiring process could hinder your organization’s efforts to diversify your workforce. Working to reduce bias in this area can help you hire employees with broader backgrounds and experiences.

  • Be intentional about the types of candidates you seek out, and cast a wide net.
  • Use precise assessments, standards, and objective criteria to evaluate all candidates for a specific role.
  • Make sure interview panels are as diverse as the candidates.
  • Audit your pay and benefits to ensure equal compensation among employees.
  • Use the right balance of human and digital tools, and make sure you audit any artificial intelligence technology for unintentional bias.

Healthcare organizations must continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of a diverse patient population. With the right approach, you can build an effective, diverse healthcare team that is better prepared to address their communities.