Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in Health Care

/ March 4, 2024 March 4, 2024

Health care organizations receive patients from different backgrounds, so improving diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) should be a priority. DEIB efforts within an organization can ultimately impact patient health outcomes and improve workplace culture for employees.

Explore the importance of DEIB for the health care industry and how you can attract diverse talent to your organization.

The Significance of DEIB in Health Care

DEIB efforts apply to various industries, including health care. Let’s look at how DEIB appears in this context.

The Meaning of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

You’ve likely heard people speaking about DEIB. But what does it entail? It focuses on three concepts — diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

  • Diversity: In health care, diversity involves employee and patient backgrounds. This can relate to culture, gender, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Hiring and retaining diverse talent brings different perspectives to your organization and may also help patients from underrepresented populations feel more comfortable receiving care.
  • Equity: Equity ensures that all health care workers have the resources and support to do their jobs. This enables them to provide patients with exceptional treatment.
  • Inclusion: Inclusion involves encouraging all employees to share their opinions, thoughts and concerns. Feeling heard ensures that employees can provide excellent service.
  • Belonging: Belonging helps ensure employees feel welcomed and accepted in the workplace. It is more focused on the employee experience.

DEIB Issues and Challenges

There are many potential DEIB issues in health care. Resolving them can help your organization achieve success and provide better care. Here are some of the challenges you should focus on addressing:

  • Lack of DEIB prioritization: You might understand the benefits of DEIB, but sometimes, understanding doesn’t translate to prioritization. Include these efforts in your mission statement to show support and ensure these initiatives remain a top priority.
  • Strategies with no measurement: If you put parameters in place for measuring your efforts, you’ll be able to see your results. Create trackable outcomes and commit to measuring results. You can start small and broad and then get more specific as you progress.
  • Blind spots and unconscious biases: Blind spots aren’t always conscious, but they hinder you from creating an authentic DEIB culture in your organization. Leaders must commit to evaluating and recalibrating to remove these unconscious biases. You can discuss how employees from different backgrounds feel about your organization’s DEIB initiatives. From these conversations, you’ll learn more about areas you can work on and how to address them. However, it’s ultimately your responsibility to address and remove unconscious biases. Training sessions can be beneficial here.
  • Limited budget: If leadership doesn’t have a sufficient budget for DEIB, it’s unlikely that you’ll generate notable results. Highlighting the value of DEIB to upper management could help encourage funding allocation.

If you put parameters in place for measuring your efforts, you'll be able to see your results.

Engaging Leadership in DEIB Initiatives

Leadership has the power to transform how an organization operates, so engaging leadership is essential for the success of DEIB initiatives. What are some ways HR managers can engage management in these efforts?

Laying the Groundwork for Sustainable DEIB Efforts

Before implementing DEIB efforts, you must start with a solid foundation. As you build your DEIB foundation, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your organization’s purpose and mission in creating the DEIB efforts? What are the reasons propelling you to make the changes, and how do you hope they will affect your company?
  • Where are you currently at? Evaluate your employees and leaders. Is there inclusion? How will working toward DEIB affect the rest of the leadership structure?
  • Does the existing organizational infrastructure support the changes you want to make? To answer this question, evaluate what the organization looks like. If it isn’t conducive to the changes, what are some changes you should make?
  • What will success look like? Determine how you’ll measure the success of your DEIB initiatives.
  • How will you ensure employees and patients feel heard? You can use surveys, one-on-one meetings with employees or other strategies to gauge feedback.
  • How will you adapt? If the efforts aren’t working, what changes do you need to make? How will you do that?
  • What resources are available? Analyze the resources you have available to support your efforts. Understand how much the organization is willing to invest in DEIB efforts and whether there is enough funding to produce the results you need.

The Direct Impact of DEIB on Patient Care and Quality

DEIB initiatives aim to address inequities in health care and patient care. The result of the work is improved patient care and a more inclusive work environment. When health care teams are diverse, they can better tap into what patients from different backgrounds need, affecting the care and outcomes.

An added benefit of DEIB is enhanced risk assessment, team communication and innovation. Team members from different backgrounds have different perspectives and can anticipate multiple circumstances, offering better ways for patient care. You can expect happier and healthier patients.

DEIB initiatives can also impact employees and increase retention. Employees are more likely to stay in an organization that promotes diversity and where they feel valued. Ultimately, these benefits can also help your organization perform better financially.

Measuring and Reporting on DEIB Success in Patient Care

As your organization works on DEIB efforts, measure the outcomes to see how far you are moving. The metrics that make measuring success more accessible include:

  • DEIB infrastructure: Create formal and informal groups invested in DEIB work and achieving the goals you’ve created. Examples include DEIB councils, committees, advisory groups and employee resource groups. You can hire full-time employees and consultants responsible for managing DEIB-related work.
  • Accountability infrastructure: Goals with no measures are less likely to come to fruition. Thus, creating systems of incentives and responsibilities ensures you hold leaders accountable for achieving DEIB goals.
  • Progression: Create structures and processes for employees to grow their DEIB knowledge. For example, you can make advanced training courses a necessary stepping stone for promotion. These structures don’t have to be formal — informal programs also work. An example is creating informal learning and development programs geared toward DEIB work, such as mentorships.
  • Personnel: Look at the demographics your organization collaborates with. This doesn’t always have to be your full-time employees. It could include people in your organization’s ecosystem like seasonal workers, part-time workers, contractors, vendors and partners.
  • Patient communication: Measure the success of patient care by investing resources into hearing how patients feel about their care level. They can voice their opinion through surveys and share while remaining anonymous.

Cultivating an Inclusive Environment for Health Care Professionals

Taking measures to attract diverse employees is the beginning, but for a long-term approach, focus on creating an inclusive environment to retain employees. Let’s dive into the ways you can achieve this.

1. Teach Leaders to Model Inclusion

If management lacks diversity or is insensitive to diverse populations, it’ll be challenging to promote diversity. People will look to leaders to determine how to react. If they don’t model inclusion, it’s unlikely that you’ll achieve the transformation you strive for, and your employee retention rates could suffer.

Reiterate to leadership the importance of modeling inclusion. Encourage leaders to take an interest in others’ experiences, personalities and perspectives. As they do this, they make employees feel like they belong, and they may be more willing to share their perspectives, leading to a more productive organization.

2. Speak Inclusively

Employees’ perception of your organization depends on how you treat and speak to them on an everyday basis. If you or management convey unconscious biases, they pick up on them. Address the issue by learning to speak inclusively. An example is considering how you speak to the LGBTQ+ community. Refrain from misgendering them by asking for their preferred pronouns.

Other examples include avoiding casual sexism or referring to groups of people as “minorities.” Instead, use the appropriate group name, such as Native American, African American or Hispanic.

3. Focus on Micro-Experiences

Focus on making deliberate efforts to achieve an inclusive workplace. This means focusing on micro-experiences as well as broad concepts like improving hiring practices, policies for equal pay and community collaboration.

The micro-experiences are also important. It can be as simple as making sure to listen when everyday concerns are raised and being especially mindful of language, as mentioned above. When employees feel valued each day, you can positively impact workplace culture and increase retention.

4. Create a Culture of Inclusion Through Recognition

One of the most effective ways to build inclusion is through recognizing all employees within the organization. Work with leadership to recognize high-performing employees and those who have grown and improved in their careers.

Committing to DEIB for a Healthier Future

The importance of DEIB in health care can never be overstated — it helps ensure that health care workers are more satisfied with their work and patients are more pleased with their level of care. The result is a thriving organization that produces impactful results.

When promoting changes for DEIB in health care organizations, it might take time to understand where to start. At Exude Human Capital, we offer expert DEIB strategy development and implementation. Contact us today to create an inclusive and diverse workplace.

At Exude Human Capital, we offer expert DEIB strategy development and implementation.