Amidst the Black Lives Matter movement and the global pandemic, healthcare organizations found it necessary to address something we had silently thought we had already addressed — treating all patients equally. But now we realize there may be even bigger gaps than we thought.

According to a Deloitte report, only 32% of American workers believe that their company has an effective diversity effort. Meanwhile, 69% of executives rate diversity and inclusion an important issue (up from 59%). All companies should be challenged to reflect on our own feelings, our own actions and what diversity and inclusion mean now and what it should mean.

Cultural diversity in the workplace encompasses the variety of experiences and perspectives that arise from each employee. Experiences and perspectives are different and can be based on race, gender, ethnic group, age, sexual orientation, personality, cognitive styles, religion, tenure, organizational function, education, heritage and much more. Cultural diversity is born from employees’ values, norms and traditions that impact the way they typically perceive, think, interact, behave and make judgments.

In the healthcare space, these diverse experiences have an effect on many levels.

Healthcare recipient (consumer). This is a very challenging and complicated area for consideration. Questions and barriers to health such as access to care, affordability of care, ability to maintain treatment of care, culture and potential language barriers can exist, many times unbeknownst to the care providers. As a nation, we have been silently aware that certain people were more susceptible to diseases, but this especially came to the forefront during Covid-19.

Care provider (nurse). We need to challenge ourselves. Diversity and inclusion needs to start at the recruitment for education time period. In spite of all the efforts made by universities, hospitals, etc., are the same opportunities available to all in education, career opportunities and promotions?

Additionally, culture, language, and religion need to be taken into consideration. The nursing team is a team, and each member is valuable and needed. Care providers need to be and feel a part of this. It provides a sense of purpose and belonging. Additionally, cultural competence is a necessary component; with it, providers can respond appropriately to people of varying backgrounds and recognize their differences. Cultural competence helps people to feel respected and valued.

Employees. Many healthcare facilities have included diversity as part of their overall mission, but there needs to be diversity and inclusivity within internal teams. To be aware that each person is unique and brings their own perspective and valuable experience — both professional and personal — adds value to our own culture. Have a strong mission/value statement and live those values. Diversity, in regard to numbers and demographics, is not enough; being inclusive is required.

A diverse culture can benefit the organization, and each stakeholder population, in many ways:

  • Provide access to a variety of viewpoints to consider
  • Improve operations
  • Improve facility reputation
  • Improve employee recruitment
  • Improve employee retention
  • Improve patient satisfaction

Overcoming Misperceptions

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding diversity initiatives, which can lead to lack of support for an initiative. Countering them is critical. Here are a few of the common ones:

  • Diversity is a problem. No, it is an opportunity!
  • Diversity is HR’s responsibility. No, it is my responsibility. It is your responsibility. We all play a significant role (employees, managers, supervisors).
  • Diversity is about race and gender. It is much broader than that. It used to be called cultural diversity, but the conversation should be more inclusive.
  • Diversity is about minorities and women in the workplace. Diversity is about your internal employees as well as your external customers. Understand the diversity within your employee base and your customers and anticipate their needs.

What comes next should be continuous and ongoing. The goal is to create an environment where cultural competence is both welcomed and rewarded.

Getting Started

We need to acknowledge and understand all the ways we are different and similar and come to grips with our own biases and prejudices. The intent is to minimize and eliminate prejudice and bias in your workplace and business practices, to create a more inclusive work environment for both employees and customers and to create a culture where the nurse acclimates quickly to be part of the healthcare team.

Get started by assessing your team’s culture. Start the process of managing cultural diversity by assessing the cultural competence of your own team and employees, their ability to be agile to collaborate effectively with people from various cultures. Determine the awareness of your own cultural worldview, knowledge of other cultural practices and worldviews, spoken and unspoken attitude towards cultural differences.

Steps to be become more culturally diverse and inclusive:

  • Gain commitment from the C-suite
  • Engage all employees in efforts
  • Target key performance indicators
  • Align efforts with company goals
  • Go beyond legal and policy requirements
  • Promote community and comfort
  • Treat others as they want to be treated
  • Ward off change resistance
  • Include as many employees as possible

Many healthcare organizations include diversity in a mission statement, but they need to put statements into action. Staffing companies can help in adding cultural diversification, especially through international nurses.