Six Tips for Removing Racism in Your Practice
No one can read or watch the news and deny how unfairly African Americans have been treated in our country. Racism has no place in the healthcare industry, but unfortunately, it exists. It may also exist in your practice without you being aware of it.
Now is a good time to give your practice a racist exam and take action to handle it.
1. Acknowledge unconscious racial bias you or your team might have.
According to a March 2012 study published in the “American Journal of Public Health,” two-thirds of doctors had racial bias toward patients. The researchers used Harvard’s “Implicit Association Test” and found racist considerations of all types. For example, most doctors thought white patients were more compliant than black patients. You can take this online test yourself at implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.
The researchers also recorded 40 physicians during 269 patient visits and found they gave black patients longer lectures, asked fewer questions, offered fewer treatment options, prescribed less pain medication and referred these patients to specialists less often.
2. Increase your knowledge of racism.
You might be amazed at the facts if you search for “racism” at the American Public Health Association (apha.org), the National Center for Biotechnology Information (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) and the National Institutes of Health (nih.gov). Fresh articles and webinars are also being created by many healthcare associations across the country to help us better understand this important issue.
3. Give your practice a racism exam.
Find all discriminatory treatment provided to your patients. For example, how do you and your team work with a successful white man when compared to a low-income black woman? Or a tiny Asian woman compared to a 250-pound black teenager?
How should all of your patients be treated, regardless of their differences?
Do any types of patients scare you or your staff members? How do you talk about different types of patients when they are not present? Are you equally willing to hire a black worker as a white worker?
Write down all possible bias issues, write a plan and start changing these issues.
4. Check your website.
Does it show pictures of happy staff and patients of all races, especially African Americans? Does it show diversity in your office? Can you improve it to be more inclusive?
5. Support minority students and workers.
Look for opportunities to sponsor, mentor, apprentice and hire minority students and staff members, especially African Americans. Give them your support and you will be rewarded in many ways.
6. Constantly improve.
Removing all unconscious racist tenancies in your office may take time, so keep working on it.
Stay open to improvements. For example, if someone points out a part of your practice that might be racist, do not deny it, defend it or argue about it. It’s like a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth. Thank the person for mentioning it and fix it.
It’s not enough to sit on the sidelines and not be racist. It’s time to be anti-racist.