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More Than 50% of Healthcare Professionals Report Racial Discrimination

— March 21, 2024

Minority healthcare workers report racial discrimination in the workplace.

Recent findings from a report jointly conducted by the Commonwealth Fund and the African American Research Collaborative shed light on the prevalence of discrimination within healthcare settings, revealing alarming insights into the experiences of healthcare professionals across various facilities.

The report, based on interviews with thousands of healthcare workers conducted under conditions of anonymity, exposed instances of discrimination witnessed by employees at hospitals and healthcare facilities. Among the striking revelations were accounts of racial discrimination targeting patients, particularly among Black and Latino demographics.

According to the report, nearly half of healthcare professionals surveyed admitted to witnessing discrimination against patients within their workplace, with racism against patients identified as a major problem by 52% of respondents. The gravity of the issue is highlighted by the fact that facilities serving predominantly Black or Latino populations reported higher rates of discrimination against patients based on their race or ethnicity.

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, a senior vice president at the Commonwealth Fund and co-author of the report, emphasized the urgent need to address discrimination in healthcare settings. Stressing the detrimental impact of discrimination on both patients and healthcare workers, Dr. Zephyrin highlighted the imperative for systemic interventions to mitigate these harmful practices.

The significance of quantifying discrimination in healthcare settings was focused on by Yolanda Lawson, president of the National Medical Association. Lawson emphasized the validation provided by the report, acknowledging the pervasive existence of discrimination and bias within healthcare environments, particularly against marginalized communities.

More Than 50% of Healthcare Professionals Report Racial Discrimination
Photo by RDNE Stock project from Pexels

The survey, conducted over several weeks, included responses from a diverse array of healthcare professionals, ranging from doctors and nurses to administrators and mental health workers. Notably, the report highlighted a generational divide among healthcare workers, with younger employees demonstrating heightened awareness of discrimination and its adverse effects.

Henry Fernandez, CEO of the African American Research Collaborative and lead author of the report, emphasized the importance of addressing discrimination, particularly in light of ongoing workforce shortages in the healthcare sector. Fernandez highlighted the need for targeted interventions to cultivate a more inclusive and equitable healthcare environment, especially as the industry recruits and trains younger workers.

Proposed solutions outlined in the report include comprehensive training programs for healthcare staff to identify and address discrimination, along with the establishment of anonymous reporting mechanisms for patients and workers. Additionally, the report advocates for increased focus on addressing language barriers and ensuring equitable treatment for non-English speaking patients.

A particularly troubling finding from the report revealed disparate treatment for patients based on their race, particularly when advocating for their own care. The revelation showcases systemic biases within healthcare systems, prompting calls for greater accountability and cultural competency among healthcare providers.

Reflecting on her own experiences, Lawson recounted instances of patients being disregarded or overlooked based on their race, highlighting the importance of patient-centered care and mutual respect within healthcare interactions. Lawson emphasized the fundamental principle of inclusivity and patient empowerment, urging healthcare providers to prioritize respectful and inclusive communication practices.

As healthcare systems deal with the imperative to address discrimination and create a culture of equity and inclusion, the report serves as a clarion call for systemic reform and renewed objective toward patient-centered care. By confronting systemic biases and accepting diversity, healthcare providers can uphold the principles of fairness and dignity for all patients, regardless of race or ethnicity.


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