As the school year starts up again, we thought we’d share why nurses love what they do to help inspire prospective students to pursue this rewarding career. We asked each nurse why it’s great to be a nurse right now and they gave us many different reasons, but they all agree on one thing: being a nurse rocks!
Here are seven reasons prospective students should consider nursing.
“2018 is a great time to be a nurse. I’m a Clinical Nurse Educator for patients with chronic granulomatous disease, a rare disease that only 20 people in the U.S. are born with each year, and my job takes me around the country to meet with them in person—but we can connect virtually as well. I’m able to build great, personal relationships with my patients—and, having four children myself—being able to be there for patients like that means the world to me. Additionally, the resources available are incredible: connecting my patients and their caregivers with online social communities and others in the rare disease community who understand their experiences is so helpful in ensuring that they feel less alone. Witnessing this positive impact on their outlook on their condition is extremely rewarding.”
—Brian Coyle, BSN, MBA, RN MSCN, Clinical Nurse Educator at Horizon Pharma
“Nursing is future proof. A complex computer algorithm meant to replace nurse anesthetists like me for endoscopy procedures was recently pulled from the market, because robots can’t do this job. The ethical and bureaucratic hurdles have never been more challenging, so nurses feel useful and irreplaceable.”
—Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN
“The best part about being a nurse in 2018 is having access to the best education, technology, and resources available, which allows us to pinpoint clients’ needs and help them achieve their daily goals and a better quality of life.”
—Eronmwon Balogun, RN, BSN, Skilled Home Care Nurse, BAYADA Home Health Care
“I’ve always had an overwhelming sense that I needed to help anyone I felt was in pain either physically or emotionally. I truly believe it’s within my soul—an innate gift. When I was an Army medic, I was in constant awe of my fellow soldiers—whether a medic, nurse, or MD—the camaraderie was powerful. I knew I wanted to pursue nursing as a career.
When I graduated nursing school, I began my journey in Oncology. Twenty-seven years later, I am still fortunate enough to be caring for the Oncology population. To this day, I still have that feeling in my heart and gut—the sense that has allowed me to become part of so many lives, and to help countless patients and families.”
—Kevin Flint, RN, BSN, MBA, OCN, Nurse Director, Vernon Cancer Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital
“Today’s world is fueled by powerful women, and this is very evident in the nursing profession. You are never limited as a nurse because you can work anywhere you want—in a school, hospital, or even home setting. Nursing is an empowering profession that is in demand and can take you nearly anywhere you want to go.”
—Pamela Compagnola, RN, Clinical Manager, BAYADA Home Health Care
“In our high-tech world, as a nurse I love that I am still able to give a personal human touch to people in need of care. For me, the person-to-person connection is why I went into this field and brings me simple joy every day.”
—Lannette Cornell Bloom, BSN, RN, author of Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying
“Nurses today have endless possibility and opportunity to really make a difference. We need to believe and be empowered that we do make a difference and that we are a big part of the health care system.”
—Rodilyn Glushchenko, RN, MSN, CCRN, CCNS, NE-BC, Nurse Director ICU, Hemodialysis and Cardiovascular Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital
There is a growing demand for more nurses in general and that the demand for male nurses is currently on the rise. Male nurses are increasing their presence at the bedside, hospital, clinic, and nursing home. The American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN) profiles the progress of its campaign for a 20% increase in the number of male nurses in the workforce by 2020. We all know that the nursing profession would benefit from a more diverse representation of gender, age, and cultures within the workforce.
Male nurses are bringing balance to the profession, which benefits patients as a whole. Having male nurses ensures that male patients are well cared and represented. Sometimes patients prefer a nurse of a certain sex, particularly for procedures like inserting a catheter, serving a bedpan, or administering EKG. Male nurses have skills and care-giving strengths that can make nursing an excellent career for them. Importantly, the benefits of being a male nurse are the same benefits of being a nurse.
If you are male and thinking about becoming a nurse, don’t hesitate to explore the career and most importantly look into yourself to ensure that this is the right career for you. Nursing is a challenging job and one that requires hard work, integrity, and dedication. Nurses can treat every patient regardless of gender, but dealing with human sickness and patients who may be crabby and cranky is simply a fact of life for nurses. As nurse, you are able to help patients and give them a level of comfort and put them at ease. The world of nursing holds many possibilities. There are over 100 different nursing specialties available and there are plenty of ways to advance your career if you are willing to work hard. Since not everyone has what it takes to be a nurse, there are a lot of considerations when it comes to nursing and what your personality needs to be like in order to be a good nurse.
Here are four key questions to ask yourself.
1. How well do you cope with stress and emergency situations?
Nursing jobs can be stressful at times. If you are someone who can work well under pressure and copes well with stress, you will do well as a nurse.
2. Are you easily offended?
Nurses sometimes come in contact with patients who are hostile or unfriendly. Being easily offended can make your nursing job difficult and stressful quickly.
3. Do you consider yourself to never stop learning?
The field of health care is continuously changing, whether it is a new disease or recently discovered new treatment, nurses learn something new every day. Therefore, a good nurse is always ready to learn more.
4. Are you a team player?
Teamwork is essential in nursing to getting the job done right and improving the patient’s health. Nurses, who enjoy their job, work well with other team members.
Millennials are rapidly becoming the most predominant generation in the workplace, and in nursing they are driven to seek leadership roles, higher degrees, and professional development more than their generational counterparts.
The AMN Healthcare Survey of Millennial Nurses: A Dynamic Influence on the Profession, compares the views of Millennial nurses (ages 19-36) to those of Generation X (ages 37-53) and Baby Boomer nurses (ages 54-71) regarding their expectations about their work environment and career futures. The results show that Millennial nurses are bringing a dynamic new perspective on such factors as career, leadership, education, and work environment.
“Millennial nurses are changing the health care workforce in ways that could further improve patient care and help healthcare organizations,” says Marcia Faller, Chief Clinical Officer at AMN Healthcare. “This survey demonstrates the high ambition of this generation of nurses and provides better understanding about how health care leaders can fully engage these high-achieving health care professionals.”
The report shows Millennial nurses are not only interested in further educational attainment, but are actively pursuing higher degrees and professional certification. Nearly 40% of Millennial RNs said they plan to pursue a master’s degree in the next three years, while another 11% said they would seek a PhD. These responses were significantly higher than those of other generations.
As the health care industry faces an aging patient population needed more complex treatment, this push for increased levels of education will help fulfill the goal of a highly educated nursing workforce.
Since the health care industry is impacted by shortages of leaders as well as practitioners, health care organizations stand to benefit from the increased interest in leadership among Millennial nurses. According to the Millennial Nurse Survey, more than one third—36%—of Millennial nurses said they were significantly interested in leadership roles, compared to one fourth of Gen Xers and 10% of Baby Boomers.
Millennial nurses were also more optimistic toward leadership than their older counterparts. When responding to positive statements about their leaders, across categories including how much they trust their leaders and whether leaders care about their career development, Millennial nurses more often answered “agree” or “strongly agree” than did Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
Professional development has proven to be important to recruiting and retaining Millennials in all professions but may be especially important in health care, where workforce demand is high and the need for quality care and team collaboration is significant. In the survey, the majority of Millennial nurses agreed with the statement “the quality of patient care I provide is positively influenced by professional development opportunities.”
The full survey can be downloaded here.
Last issue’s health policy column highlighted nursing’s increased engagement in the public policy arena. To continue this conversation, this column highlights a registered nurse running for Congress to help champion access to affordable health care. Yes, Lauren Underwood, MSN/MPH, RN, of Naperville, Illinois is running for Congress to represent the 14th Congressional District of Illinois.
Her Journey to Pursuing an Elected Position
Underwood is steadfast and fiercely committed to helping shape policies and programs focused on ensuring that everyone has access to affordable health care. She is a registered nurse who received her BSN from the University of Michigan and her MSN/MPH from Johns Hopkins University. Her nursing experiences include service as a health policy advisor, research fellow, senior director, and research nurse at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. Her passion for public policy was heightened while serving as a health policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary at the Health and Human Services in Washington, DC initially under the leadership of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius followed by the leadership of Secretary Sylvia Burwell. In this capacity, Underwood worked on private insurance reform, summary of insurance benefits, health care quality in the Medicare program, the Agency for Health care Research and Quality, and preventive services (free screenings, immunizations, and contraceptive coverage) for four and a half years from 2010-2014.
Lauren Underwood, MSN/MPH, RN
Democratic Candidate for Congress, 14th Congressional District of Illinois
Tell us about working for the Obama administration.
Got a call the week that Mr. [Thomas Eric] Duncan was in the hospital in Dallas with Ebola asking if I would be willing to join the President’s team to help with disaster response, so I transferred over to ASPR, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, at HHS. We worked on emerging infectious diseases (e.g., Ebola, Zika Virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus, or MERS), we also did national disasters (e.g., wildfires, hurricanes, floods) and then bioterror (small pox, anthrax) and worked with drug companies to develop vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. I stayed in the administration until the very end, the last day. And so, when the election happened in 2016 we were working on the water crisis in Flint. I was surprised, and I thought that Hillary Clinton’s team was going to win and that we were going to hand off our work on health reform and on Flint to people who cared and wanted to continue the process. And then we got the Trump team who made it very clear they wanted to do away with health care coverage. And that’s not why I went into nursing or why I did this work. So, I knew I could stay in government and help them do that. I wanted to continue the work and so I came back home to Illinois because Illinois is a state that expanded Medicaid. I got a job working for a Medicaid managed care company in Chicago as the Senior Director for Strategy and Regulatory Affairs for a company called Next Level Health.
Are you still there?
I left my job about six weeks ago. The primary campaign was about eight months. I worked full time six and a half months; you know you have to do that. I am a young person, not someone of particular means or whatever, so it was necessary. And then it was like “Lauren, you could really win if you put your time and energy into the campaign.” And so that was an easy choice to transfer to full time.
So, you are now devoting full time to the campaign?
This reflects your journey. Describe in a few words what really made you run for an elected position.
I am going to tell you a story. Last spring when I returned home, I went to congressman Randy Hultgren’s one and only public event. It was a moderated event hosted by the League of Women Voters. And during that evening, he made a promise and said that he was only going to support a version of Obamacare repeal that allowed people with preexisting conditions to keep their coverage. That’s important to me as a nurse. I also know how critical it is for people with chronic illness to have access to medications and procedures that they need. Obviously, I worked to implement the Affordable Care Act so I read the law and I know that it works. I know that we can fix what does not work. We do not have to throw the whole thing away. Like so many Americans, I have a preexisting condition myself. I have a heart condition, SVT (supraventricular tachycardia), and it is well controlled. As you know, it is a preexisting condition, so I would not be able to get coverage under these repeal scenarios. And so, when the congressman made that promise I believed him.
And then a week to ten days later he went and voted for the American Health Care Act, which is a version of repeal that did the opposite. It made it cost prohibitive for people like me to get coverage. And so, I was upset not at the vote itself, but because he did not have the integrity to be honest the one time he stood before our community. That’s not what a representative is supposed to do. A representative is supposed to be transparent, accessible, and honest. And we deserve better. I said, “you know what, it’s on! I’m running” and launched my campaign in August and just won the primary on March 20th. I was in a field of seven—the only woman running against six men—and I won 57% of the vote.
Were you the only African American?
I know you are concerned about overall access to care and have a deep commitment to utilizing your expertise and experience while working in the Obama administration.
I believe that health care is the number one issue in this election across the country and in our district, and we need a solution to make health care more affordable for American families. It is not enough for families to rake together money for their premiums and have an insurance card in their pockets and cannot afford the coverage.
I believe that a lot of the conversation in the last several years has been political in nature and undoing President Obama’s legacy and not on at all focused on trying to lower costs and make health care accessible for American families. That’s my objective! I want to work on drug prices. I want to work on this opioid drug crisis so that loved ones can get the treatment that they so desperately need. And so, I believe there is a lot of value in having a nurse at the negotiation tables when we are making these decisions and passing policies that will transform our health care system. I am excited about the opportunity to be a leading voice on Capitol Hill on these important issues.
What do you think are the most pressing issues impacting nursing and health care?
Affordability. Any program that is starved of resources will fail. The ACA has been intentionally sabotaged and as a result, we see extraordinary high premiums that are unaffordable for most families. That is not how the program was designed to work and so I think there are technical fixes we can do to make the program more affordable. We can do things like negotiate drug prices, it can be done, we need to take a strong position on this opioid drug addiction crisis. We need to implement reforms like how we pay for rehab and how we award funds to municipalities in order to create a pathway for lasting change. And then there are opportunities to expand coverage so we will have fewer uninsured Americans. What we are seeing now in order to resuscitate it takes 2-3 doses of Narcan because the drugs are so strong. Municipalities who have received Narcan grants are running out of Narcan. A Narcan only solution is not a solution. Law enforcement only solution is not a solution. Addiction is an illness and we need to treat it as such. We need to send people to treatment so they can have a shot at recovery. We could have an evidence-based policy solution. We know treatment can be effective.
What do you think is the most pressing issue affecting nursing today?
I think there are a few things. The high cost of our education. We have not really seen increases in funding. What we have seen are marginal increases or flat funding. I think that this is unacceptable, in particular in the context of what we are seeing in higher education more broadly. And not just at the federal level. In higher education, many states have reduced putting money into public education, shifting the responsibility to families and individuals and with that coupled with flat funding for nursing education we are seeing a generation of nursing students with significant debt. And that is going to be a barrier, I believe, to our profession being able to grow. Right now, we have an economic situation where we are not seeing the shortage that we saw ten years ago. But it’s very easy to get back to that point if the economics of going into nursing shifts when you graduate from a BSN program with $100,000 in debt and are limited in your initial salary. Loan repayment programs are not that plentiful as they used to be. The economics of it makes it tough. Because we are talking about middle class folks who are not able to take on that debt. And when it is becoming increasingly attractive to become an APRN, that is all debt to be able to get the master’s to become a nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife. We are going to need some serious advocacy and a plan to deal with the cost of our education.
What are your thoughts about safe staffing?
It is so interesting. Safe staffing has been a legislative priority for decades. We have not been able to pass these bills. I think the approach needs to be more balanced with safe staffing committees in these hospitals. Moving away from these ratios and having hospitals have safe staffing committees that would take into consideration the circumstances that facilities and the region when staffing levels. On these committees, nurses would serve so a legislative body is not dictating it. I think that this is an appropriate approach coupled with compelling Medicare participating facilities to set staffing levels and monitor outcomes.
When elected, what would you do to go about helping to ensure equitable access to health care?
That’s like the question! For me, equitable access to health care allows everyone to get health care. Health care is a human right. Human rights have been fundamental to my nursing practice. It is written in our Code of Ethics—this idea that everyone should have health care—and I think our policies should reflect that. For me, that includes fixing the Affordable Care Act to ensure affordable coverage; and making sure we have clinics, hospitals, and facilities in communities so that the burden is not on low-income people or people with transportation challenges or resource limitations so that people are able to get the care and services they need. We have so much innovation, technology, and so many improvements now in a way we are able to provide care whether it’s telemedicine or individualized health care. It is a shame if all of that innovation and all of those improvements are seen in resource communities. We need to be focused in these conversations about reform and transforming our system to ensure that it is serving everyone—rural, urban, low income, and elderly.
What advice would you give to aspiring policy advocates who may be considering a run for public office?
Your country needs you! There are too few nurses in policy positions. Seek a County Board position. The County Board supervises the local Department of Health. Run for state legislator, they address scope of practice issues. Run for Congress! There are many opportunities to serve and lead. Step forward!
One of the hottest topics amongst nurse educators today is finding strategies to promote safe learning in the classroom environment. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), it is estimated that over 73% of “nontraditional” students are studying in undergraduate nursing programs. The term “nontraditional” refers to all students who meet the following criteria: over the age of 25, ethnic minority groups, speaks English as a second language, a male, has dependent children, has a general equivalency diploma (GED), required to take remedial courses, and students who commute to the college campus. Nurse educators have a responsibility to ensure that all of their nursing students are learning in a safe environment.
For instance, microaggression is something that nurse educators must address in order to promote a safe classroom environment. Microaggressions are subtle, verbal and nonverbal snubs, insults, putdowns, and condescending messages directed towards people of color, women, the LGBTQ population, people with disabilities, and any other marginalized group. These insults are often automatic and unconscious in nature, according to Derald Wing Sue, PhD, author of Microaggression in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Microaggression can cause a person to question themselves regardless of whether the microaggression occurred or not because they were unsure if they were just being oversensitive to the offense or if the perpetrator really intended to harm them with what they said. Microaggressions are usually committed by “well-intentioned folks” who are unaware of the hidden message that is being transferred.
Types of Microaggression
Microaggressions are similar to carbon monoxide—“invisible, but potentially lethal”—continuous exposure to these types of interactions “can be a sort of death by a thousand cuts to the victim,” says Sue. He further outlines three themes in three microaggression categories. The three themes are: racial, gender, and sexual orientation. The themes appear to occur in three different forms of microaggression: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations.
Microassaults. Also known as “old-fashioned racism,” microassaults are conscious verbal or nonverbal attacks meant to hurt, oppress, or discriminate against the marginalized groups. This can range from telling racial jokes, name-calling, or isolating a student base on their racial, sexual, or gender identity. For instance, a student may deliberately refer to an Asian classmate as an Oriental. (Hidden message: You are not a true American. You are a perpetual foreigner in your own country.) Another example of a microassault is a teacher asking an African American male student, “Are you a first-time generation college student?” (Hidden message: African American males usually do not go to college.) Microassaults leave the students feeling unwanted, uncomfortable, and invisible.
Microinsults. A microinsult is an unconscious and unintentional discriminatory action against one’s identity. For instance, a teacher not asking a transgender student what pronoun to use when addressing the student (Hidden message: You are not acknowledging my identity.) Another example of microinsult is a teacher calling on an Asian student to come to the blackboard to work out a drug calculation problem. (Hidden message: All Asians are supposed to be good at math.) Or a student jokingly making the comment “that’s so gay.” (Hidden message: Being gay is associated with negative and undesirable characteristics.) A microinsult can also be nonverbal. For instance, when a white professor fails to call on the African American students in the classroom. (Hidden message: People of color contributions are unimportant.) Microinsults can have a far-fetching negative impact on a student, and they can affect a student’s motivation and commitment as well as mental health.
Microinvalidations. Microinvalidations are unconscious communications or environmental cues that faintly exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person’s identity. One example of microinvalidation is a student asking an Asian student, “Where are you from? You speak perfect English.” The Asian student replying, “I was born and raised in Florida.” (Hidden message: You are not American.) Or when a teacher continues to mispronounce the name of a student even after the student has repeatedly corrected the teacher. (Hidden message: I am not willing to learn how to pronounce a non-English based name.) Or a white science professor asking the male nursing students, “Why are you going into a nursing? It’s a female profession.” (Hidden message: Nursing is not “a real man’s job.”) Or the classic case of a white student telling her black roommate, “I don’t see color. There is only one race: the human race.” The color blindness offense is one of the most frequently delivered microinvalidations. Another example of microinvalidation is a student who unconsciously opens the door for a classmate who is in a wheelchair. (Hidden message: You are not able to independently take care of yourself.) The student should wait for the student in the wheelchair to ask for help if she or he needs it. Microinvalidation is one of the most harmful forms of microaggression because it leaves the victim feeling ashamed and asking themselves “Am I being oversensitive or paranoid?”
How to Address Microaggressions in the Classroom
Professors and students are the most common perpetrators of microaggressions in the nursing classroom environment. In the course of interaction, the professor or student may say something that offends a student intentionally or unintentionally. Since microaggressions are usually invisible to the perpetrator and may seem to have reasonable alternative explanations, the student may be left feeling uneasy and questioning themselves about what the implied message was.
Microaggression is processed in five different phases, Sue says. Phase one is the incident (verbal, nonverbal, or environmental). The perpetrator intentionally or unintentionally commits the offense. Phase two is the receiver’s perception of the offense. For instance, the receiver may ask themselves, “Was I just discriminated against?” or “Did she say what I think she said?” Phase three is the receiver’s immediate response to the offense. The receiver may respond by taking a defensive stand. Phase four is the receiver’s interpretation of the meaning of the offense. They may even ask themselves, “Should I say something?” or “If I say something it may make it worse.” Phase five is the consequence that may happen to the receiver of the offense. For instance, students may lose confidence in their ability to complete the course. Microaggressions can cause psychological consequences on the students over time, such as anxiety, depression, helplessness, and loss of drive, which can impede the student’s academic performance.
Therefore, the first step to addressing microaggression in the classroom environment is to acknowledge that it exists, says Jared Edwards, PhD, a psychology professor at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Nurse educators need to get to know their students. You should be aware of their campus cultural environment and the specific challenges that your students from different backgrounds may face. Do not dismiss the classroom experience of microaggressions as “isolated” incidents. You should work with your students to create a safe classroom atmosphere by establishing solid ground rules and classroom expectations. You can incorporate open classroom discussions about microaggressions into your courses. For instance, have students conduct a group presentation on the impact of microaggressions in a classroom environment. This will promote teambuilding skills and communication and writing skills as well as help create awareness surrounding the common occurrences of microaggressions. Nurse educators need to be aware of what programs (e.g., student counseling center, disability services) are available on their campus so they can refer students who may need help dealing with the psychological consequences of microaggressions.
Nurse educators must be prepared to teach and advocate for culturally diverse students in a multicultural classroom setting. Additionally, they can show they value their students in many ways. For instance, taking the time to learn how to properly pronounce every student’s name can show the students that you value the student’s identity.
A clinician sees a Somali patient with a primary complaint of back pain and, following an exam, prescribes a traditional course of western medical action. The patient, however, is reluctant to act on the medical advice because he thinks his back pain is caused by a bad relationship with his parents or guilt over something he did. “It is always good (for clinicians) to have some knowledge about their patient’s culture, to know who they are dealing with,” says Fozia Abrar, MD, of Minneapolis. “It might cost time and money, but you save more money by not getting a misdiagnosis, by improving quality of care.”
Suffering from bacterial gastritis, a Somali woman in Minnesota visits several providers but does not take the medication they prescribe. When met with a smile and a greeting in her native language by Dr. Abrar, the patient complies with the same treatment recommended by the previous providers—Dr. Abrar successfully persuaded the patient to fill a prescription and take the medication because of her knowledge of the patient’s culture. This situation is not new or unique—medical anthropologist and psychiatrist Arthur Kleinman, MD, has spent 30 years championing cultural issues in medicine. He says a great body of evidence shows culture does matter in clinical care.
Every cultural group has traditional health beliefs that shape members’ perspectives about wellness. The increasingly diverse, twenty-first-century patient population requires clear communication and practitioner awareness of patient health perspectives in order to significantly impact patient satisfaction, safety, compliance, and outcomes.
Organizational Culture, Patient Satisfaction, and Safety
Organizational culture informs every worker whether patient satisfaction is a key value. By influencing employee behavior and how employees are treated, culture drives employee effectiveness, safety, and whether employees take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Organizations that dedicate additional employee resources to patient safety signal to employees that both employee effectiveness and patient safety are high priority. In other words, organizational values and beliefs guide employee commitment to patient and worker satisfaction. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture: 2016 User Comparative Database Report, patient safety improved more at hospitals where they increased employment of staff who reported incidents, compared to hospitals that did not expand the number of employees who reported incidents.
At Atrius Health, a Massachusetts ambulatory care provider with 36 locations, staff can report safety events while updating existing electronic health records (EHRs). This reporting mechanism has increased the number of reported events, and as many as 30% of events reported monthly come in through the EHR tool, according to Ailish Wilkie, patient safety and risk management director for Atrius Health.
In other words, employee accountability shapes workplace and organizational culture.
Patient Culture, Provider Culture
In addition to the effect workplace culture has on patient satisfaction and employee competency, two additional areas of culture impact health care effectiveness. Both a patient’s cultural background and the provider’s scientific/medical culture inform patient and provider wellness perspectives. If patient compliance with the treatment plan is the goal, providers need to understand the patient’s cultural identity.
By the same token, patients need to know that their perspectives are respected. Few health care observational studies have reported sufficient information to support the claim of provider bias, but a 2006 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reported that most internal medicine residents gain cross-cultural skills through informal training, and most stated that delivery of high-quality, cross-cultural care was important but were skeptical about the expectation of learning every little detail about all cultures. Barriers to cross-cultural care included lack of time, not knowing enough about the religion or ethnic group of the patient they were caring for, and/or dealing with belief systems which are different than their own.
A 2000 study in Social Science and Medicine found that physicians rated minority patients more negatively than White patients; the study also reported that physicians viewed minorities as non-compliant and more likely to engage in risky health behaviors. Clearly, providers need reliable resources to add to their understanding of the patient’s perspective.
A 2017 survey of 111 health care providers revealed where providers currently turn to access cultural training and information, and what types of information providers need when they are unsure/unaware of the patient’s cultural profile and its implications for treatment decisions, patient compliance, and safety outcomes. The survey found that providers want more data on their patients’ use of nontraditional medicine; their faith beliefs; and who the health care decision-makers are.
Diversity and Disparities
An increase in racial and ethnic minority health professionals provides greater opportunity for minority patients to see a practitioner who speaks their primary language or is from their own racial or ethnic background. This can improve the quality of communication, patient safety, satisfaction, compliance, and outcomes. In addition to increasing the diversity of practitioners, hospitals are working to improve hiring diversity, employee cultural awareness, and organizational culture.
In 2015, The Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) commissioned a national survey of hospitals and health systems to quantify the actions they are taking to promote diversity in leadership and governance, and reduce health care disparities. Data for this project were collected through a national survey mailed to the CEOs of 6,338 U.S. registered hospitals. The response rate was 17.1%, with the sample generally representative of all hospitals.
Minorities represent a reported 32% of patients in hospitals that responded to the survey, and 37% of the U.S. population, according to other national surveys. In contrast, the HRET survey data show that minorities represent only 14% of hospital board membership, 14% of executive leadership positions, and 15% of first- and mid-level positions.
As a sign of progress, though, nearly half of hospitals surveyed had a plan to recruit and retain a diverse workforce matching their patient population. Further, 42% said they implemented a program to find diverse employees in the organization worthy of promotion.
Cultural Data Collection
The HRET data show that 98% of hospitals are collecting patient data on race. Additionally, other areas of data collection included ethnicity (95%) and first language (94%). But, the percentage of hospitals that correlated the impact these factors have to the delivery of care was a mere 18%. Remarkably, in 2011 only 20% of hospitals analyzed clinical quality indicators by race and ethnicity to identify patterns, whereas 14% looked at hospital readmissions, and 8% analyzed medical errors.
A serious flaw in the HRET survey was zero data collected on hospital patient national origin. The report listed myriad reasons why hospitals might be failing to meaningfully use the data, such as fearing potential liability issues after publicly acknowledging disparities in care, concerns about the public relations backlash, and a lack of knowledge in developing clinical programs that would reduce or eliminate inequalities. Plus, some hospitals noted the lack of a “diversity champion” on their staff to help lead the effort.
Hospitals seem to be making progress in educating staff on diversity, with 80% providing cultural competence training during orientation and 79% offering continuing education opportunities on cultural competency, according to the survey.
Hospitals have begun to include leadership goals designed to reduce care disparities by implementing diversity initiatives such as: allocating adequate resources to ensure cultural competency/diversity initiatives are sustainable; incorporating diversity management into budget planning and implementation process; increasing hospital board diversity to reflect that of its patient population; board members demonstrating completion of diversity training; developing plans specifically to increase ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of executive and mid-level management teams; and executive compensation tied to diversity goals.
Beyond the C-suite, hospitals are developing diversity plans with initiatives that include diversity goals in hiring manager performance expectations; implementation of programs to identify diverse, talented employees within the organization for promotion; documented plans to recruit and retain a diverse workforce that reflects the organization’s patient population; required employee attendance at diversity training; hospital collaboration with other health care organizations to improve health care workforce training and educational programs in the communities served; and education of all clinical staff during orientation about how to address unique cultural and linguistic factors affecting the care of diverse patients and communities.
This increased implementation of appropriate health care and adherence to effective diversity and cultural education programs at every level of health care will ultimately result in improved patient satisfaction, compliance, hospital safety, and patient health outcomes.