In December of 1995 The Pew Health Professions Commission (Critical Challenges: Revitalizing the Health Professions for the Twenty-First Century) stated:
There is a substantial body of literature which concludes that culturally sensitive care is good care. This means two things for all health professional schools. First, they must continue their commitment to ensure that the students they train represent the rich ethnic diversity of our society. Important investments and many successes have been achieved, but this is an obligation that must be continued at each institution until it is no longer an issue. Second, diversifying the entering class is not sufficient to ensure understanding and appreciation of diversity. Cultural sensitivity must be a part of the educational experience that touches the life of every student.
About 10 years later, the Sullivan Commission on Diversity on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce published Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions stating:
Diversity in the health workforce will strengthen cultural competence throughout the health
system. Cultural competence profoundly influences how health professionals deliver health
care. Language is a critical component, with two out of ten Americans speaking a language at home other than English. The cultural challenges posed by a shifting patient demographic can
best be addressed by health professionals educated and trained in a culturally dynamic environment. . .
The business community has long recognized that workforce diversity is essential to success
and maintaining competitiveness in the marketplace. Corporate executives as well as local
chambers of commerce describe the economic benefits of developing a workforce that reflects the customer base.
After publication #1 (Pew) we were left with a greater understanding of the issue. In between the Pew report and the Sullivan (publication #2 above) report, there were myriad reports on this issue and related issues such as health disparities, other workforce-related studies examining diversity, numerous conferences, and a lot of conversation about the importance of it, how it is affecting health outcomes, etc. There have been other subsequent to Sullivan, too.
What I personally have not seen a great deal of is a publication of best practices: How to diversify and expand the healthcare pipeline?; "Where do we go from here in healthcare workforce diversity?"; and so on and so forth--in essence, action!
Now, my not seeing this much does not mean that it is not happening. So if it is, and you happen to pass by this blog and read some of it, please share your success with me and I will do my best to share it with my network, my clients, etc.
In the meantime, when do we really address diversity in the health professions; in the healthcare workforce? There are many steps that have been taken in states and by cutting edge foundations like the California Endowment. Check out what they are up to:
You may also find programs taking place through educational institutions like the Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Michigan as well as another such program run by the Institute for Diversity in Health Management.
These programs are great, the question lies in the details and in the measurement of what is coming from them. I would say there are positive outcomes anecdotally, and I actually believe anecdote is measurable. However, we generally are not even capturing the stories that these programs produce in aggregate. As a result, the funding for them is usually sparse, running low, running out, and has already run away with little hope hope for renewal.
Don't get me wrong, I am confident that we can make continued and bigger strides towards understanding pipeline building in the healthcare workforce. To me it lies in moving towards a clear understanding that this is not "initiative-based". Initiatives come to an end. Diversity in the healthcare workforce is not something that some do and others don't if they want success long-term and it has no ending. Diversity recruitment is recruitment, period. If diversity is not being considered, quite frankly you are not really recruiting. You are selecting some folks that will meet your needs for the next few years, but you are not building the workforce that will add to bottom-line growth in the future of your organization, hospital, institution, etc. It simply won't lead to the innovation, connection with patients, market share growth, or any other aspect that you are looking to advance including cultural competency.
So, when do we really address diversity in the healthcare workforce? We are doing it now, but not nearly to the extent we need to. Do we understand the implications? I doubt it. Right now they are theoretical and not practical.
I am in search of a healthcare organization that has focused on diversity and has documented how it has positively affected them. If you hear of any, let me know, I would be thrilled to do an interview with them.
If you are interested in an interview talking about your talent management efforts, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are in the process of creating our interview and publication schedule for Diversity HealthWorks. I am sure the world would love to hear about the great things you are doing. . .