What Diversity and Inclusion Challenges Do Healthcare Organizations Face?

Marketing Specialist

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are imperative to driving bottom-line results in healthcare, but those initiatives frequently stagnate at the organizational values stage. A survey from PwC found that 68% of respondents cited D&I as a stated value or priority at their organization, but half of respondents felt that diversity was a barrier to progression. 

Real change requires an integrated action plan. 

D&I affect every aspect of a healthcare organization, so they must be valued and integrated at every level — from the patient-facing frontlines all the way up to the boardroom. Only a diverse and inclusive organization can truly respond to the healthcare needs of the whole community.

Here are some problems faced by healthcare organizations — and ways that diversity and inclusion measures can help you overcome them.

Diversity is Isolated to Frontline Employees

Diversity metrics may show that your organization employs a number of diverse employees, but where that diverse talent is located makes a difference. “It’s essential to ensure that all levels of your organization reflect the communities you serve — especially the C-suite,” says Dr. Jennifer Mieres, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Northwell Health.

In most cases diverse employees are siloed in non-clinical roles like patient transport or environmental services, says Andres Gonzalez, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin. These are critical roles, but they don’t typically offer job mobility. An integrated D&I program invests in developing those employees, so they can move up and around your organization.

Diverse Employees Don’t Feel Valued

A holistic D&I program must do more than meet diversity metrics — inclusion needs must be met as well. Diverse employees must feel seen, heard and valued in the workplace. Surveying employees to understand their experiences at work is a good starting point. You can take it a step further and establish employee resource groups consisting of diverse employees, suggests Mieres. These groups can provide feedback on the efficacy of inclusion efforts.

Diverse employee groups can also provide value around recruiting, retention and promotion. “You can deploy your diverse staff to go out and talk about their own journeys in their communities of origin,” Gonzales says. This drives attraction in your organization, and listening to your diverse employees helps you to create a culture of dignity, respect and inclusion that fosters retention.

Diverse Communities Aren’t Being Served

To drive patient outcomes in all communities, you must first have an internal culture of diversity and inclusion. If your organization provides the resources, your diverse employees can spearhead initiatives for holistic, equitable care in underserved communities. 

“Employee resource groups offer a lot of information on expanding healthcare delivery models to include culture, religion and other aspects of diverse communities,” Mieres says. “That will make community members feel at home and trust you as their healthcare provider of choice.” Authentic engagement is critical to serving minority communities, Gonzalez says. Members of those communities with shared backgrounds and experiences can make that kind of connection. 

A diverse and inclusive culture increases the employee experience and fosters better patient outcomes. Acting on diversity and inclusion values helps your healthcare organization progress beyond measuring demographics to supporting a holistic culture where everyone feels valued.

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