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From the Top. Let's Embrace Diversity.


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Michael Greenbaum Let's Embrace Diversity

African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Native Americans represent more than 25 percent of the U.S. population. However, these three ethnic groups represent less than 9 percent of nurses, 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of dentists, according to the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Health Care Workforce. Of the 16,000-plus students who entered medical school in 2003, only about 2,000 were African-American, Hispanic/Latino or Native American.

Asians present a different picture. While Asian-Americans make up less than five percent of the population, they account for more than 16 percent of physicians and surgeons and more than 12 percent of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. And yet, Asians are still underrepresented in other allied health care professions.
 
With increased immigration and a looming shortage of health care workers, the demand for bilingual, culturally sensitive health care workers is greater than ever. Patients are more comfortable if they can communicate with staff members who understand their language, traditions and cultural values. For example, health care workers who don't grasp the Hispanic/Latino concept of la familia—the need for a patient to be surrounded by a large, extended family of friends and relatives—could compromise or jeopardize a patient's care. 

The need for bilingual staff pervades the health care system. Whether these individuals carry the title of physician's assistant, nurse's aide, mental health technician, nurse practitioner, dietician, R.N. or M.D., their contributions are invaluable. They have the power to help health care organizations better serve diverse patient populations, reduce staff turnover and minimize medical errors possibly caused by linguistic and cultural barriers. 

How can your organization create a more diverse, bilingual workforce? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Collaborate with other hospitals, medical and nursing schools, not-for-profit foundations and government agencies. These organizations share your interest in developing and sustaining a diverse, bilingual workforce through culturally sensitive education, training and recruitment.
  • Hire bilingual, culturally savvy employees who can help address the communications needs of patients and families.
  • Offer training that will help all your employees care for patients from varied cultures and backgrounds.
  • Develop a workforce that reflects the diversity of the local population.
  • Promote your diversity program throughout the community and service area.
  • Enlist the support of bilingual staff in recruitment and retention campaigns. Prospective workers often join organizations based on what current and former employees say about the organization's commitment to diversity, as well as the organization’s published diversity policies.
  • Create internal affinity groups that reflect the needs and interests of various minority groups, such as Asians or Hispanics/Latinos.
  • Encourage employees to form their own groups around issues related to ethnicity, culture or language.
  • Participate in diversity-related events in the community. Or sponsor events that support social issues that concern bilingual populations.

With these strategies we can create the kind of workforce that will help meet the needs of increasing diverse patients. 

Please contact me with your questions and comments at mgreenbaum@cyracom.com.


Resources

Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum
http://www.apiahf.org

Commission to End Healthcare Disparities
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/12809.html 

Minority Health News Page
http://www.cdc.gov/omh/AMH/News.htm

MinorityNurse.com
http://www.minoritynurse.com

National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association
http://www.nanaina.com/

National Association of Hispanic Nurses
http://www.thehispanicnurses.org/

National Hispanic Medical Association
http://www.nhmamd.org/

Philippine Nurses Association of America
http://www.pnaa03.org

Sullivan Commission
http://www.sullivancommission.org/

Transcultural Nursing Society
http://www.tcns.org









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