Prioritizing Diversity & Inclusion in Healthcare: What it Means, Why it’s Important, and How to Get Started

Prioritizing Diversity & Inclusion in Healthcare
September 8, 2020
Lisa Lodyga-Uhl, Hanger’s Director of Talent Management, Inclusion, and Engagement

We are living in truly challenging times. Amidst a global pandemic and the effects of systemic racism and inequality dating back centuries coming to a head in our communities nationwide, our differences are dividing us when we should be working together to bring about needed change. Now is the time to come together as a healthcare profession to enact meaningful change within our workplaces, so we can create a more inclusive environment for those we serve, and in turn, make our world a better place. 

Diversity & Inclusion: The Basics

Before we dive into how to promote diversity and inclusion, it’s important to understand what these terms mean, and how they relate to each other. Many people use the words interchangeably, but they are not the same.  

Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. In a nutshell, diversity means differences. Some dimensions of diversity we can see (e.g., gender, race) and others we can’t (e.g., religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status). When we share these dimensions with others at work – both the visible and invisible – it reinforces a feeling of belonging. And, the reverse is also true. When we don’t share with others, we may start to question whether we belong.   

Inclusion is an environment created in which people of all backgrounds feel seen, heard, respected, valued, supported, and developed as they contribute to organizational goals as their true selves. When team members can truly be themselves at work, they don’t have to spend energy hiding who they really are – instead, their energy can be devoted to doing their best work. One of the keys to creating an inclusive environment is embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity that are contained within each team member and tapping into them to innovate and make better decisions. To realize the benefits of more diversity, organizations need to also work toward inclusion. 

Benefits of Increased Diversity & Inclusion in Healthcare

Creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces benefits our patients and team members. When care teams mirror the diversity of the patients they serve, it can help foster comfort and trust between the patient, clinician, and administrators more quickly. For team members, a person who feels valued, respected, and supported for who they are is intrinsically motivated to do their best work, and their best work translates into providing the best patient care possible. In addition, diverse and inclusive teams are better at collaboration, decision making, and innovating – all keys to providing exceptional patient care and having organizational success. 

How to Enact Meaningful Change

Hanger is committed to cultivating a culture of inclusion and empathy in our workplaces and in our communities. We ask that you join us by embarking on similar, impactful actions in your organization. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Understand the Current State

Step 2: Assess Needs, Concerns, and Goals

Identify how diversity and inclusion efforts can address the issues and concerns uncovered in “Step 1”, as well as how the efforts can help the company reach its business goals:

Step 3: Get Buy-In

Support will be needed from key stakeholders to ensure alignment on objectives, timing, and success metrics. Stakeholder buy-in is also important to secure resources in the event they are needed.

Step 4: Communicate and Share Progress

Share the plan and provide updates on progress. The more that is shared, the more people will want to join the journey and help amplify efforts.

Whether just getting started, or working to enhance existing diversity and inclusion efforts, we would love to hear from you. Together, we can create a more inclusive environment for those we serve, and in turn, make our world a better place. 

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