DEI: Part of the Healthcare Labor Solution
In recent years, the staffing industry has experienced the effect of a shrinking labor pool stemming from multiple socioeconomic factors. An initiative that is rightfully gaining momentum in organizations of all levels that could help ease the strain of labor shortages nationwide is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). How can DEI initiatives, particularly related to the healthcare industry, increase candidates and decrease labor pains?
DEI: Part of the Healthcare Labor Solution
While increasing efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not the sole solution for the shortage of nurses and other healthcare professionals that we are experiencing nationwide, it is an important factor in creating a more sustainable nursing workforce. Increasing diversity in the nursing workforce can help address health disparities and improve patient outcomes. Here are a few examples:
- Cultural Competency: Nurses from diverse backgrounds can bring unique perspectives and experiences that can help them provide culturally competent care to patients from all walks of life. Cultural competency is the ability to provide care that is sensitive to a patient’s cultural beliefs, values, and practices, which can improve patient outcomes and increase patient satisfaction.
- Language Access: Nurses who speak multiple languages can communicate with patients who may not speak English as their first language, which can improve communication and patient outcomes.
- Trust: Patients from diverse backgrounds may feel more comfortable and trust healthcare providers who are from similar backgrounds or who understand their cultural beliefs and practices. This can improve patient satisfaction and lead to better health outcomes.
- Addressing Health Disparities: Increasing diversity in the nursing workforce can help provide more equitable care to patients from underserved communities. For example, nurses from underrepresented groups may be more likely to work in community health settings and provide care to patients who may not have access to healthcare otherwise.
Additionally, creating a more inclusive workplace culture can help retain nurses and decrease turnover rates.
Finding qualified candidates begins with encouraging and supporting more students from underserved communities to opt in to a healthcare career.
Better Recruiting for Students
Better recruiting for healthcare students involves targeting students from diverse backgrounds and providing them with the resources and support they need to pursue a career in healthcare. This can include going into high schools and underserved communities to provide information about healthcare careers and offering mentorship and networking programs for students from underrepresented groups.
The Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP) at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine is a free program that provides information and mentorship to high school students from underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.
One student who was recently recruited through HPREP is Daisy Medina, a first-generation college student and daughter of Mexican immigrants. Daisy participated in the program as a high school student and was inspired to pursue a career in healthcare. She is now a first-year medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, where she is continuing to receive mentorship and support through HPREP.
Here are some additional programs offering education and support for students from underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare:
- Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP): SHPEP is a free, six-week summer program that provides students from underrepresented backgrounds with exposure to healthcare careers and academic enrichment. The program is hosted by various colleges and universities across the United States.
- Medical Mentors of America (MMA): MMA is a nonprofit organization that provides mentorship, academic support, and leadership development to high school students from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.
- Health Career Connection (HCC): HCC is a nonprofit organization that provides paid summer internships to undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in healthcare careers. The internships provide students with hands-on experience in healthcare and public health organizations, as well as professional development and networking opportunities.
- Future Health Professionals (HOSA): HOSA is a national organization for middle school, high school, and postsecondary students interested in healthcare careers. The organization provides leadership development, career exploration, and networking opportunities to students, as well as access to scholarships and other resources.
By providing mentorship, academic support, and hands-on experience, these programs can help students overcome barriers to entering healthcare careers and prepare them for success in the field.
Better Recruiting Requires Willing Investors
The cost implications of better recruiting for healthcare students can vary depending on the specific initiatives and programs implemented. However, investing in DEI initiatives in healthcare education and recruiting can have significant long-term benefits for healthcare organizations, and for society.
As noted above, increasing diversity in the healthcare workforce can improve patient outcomes, which can reduce healthcare costs over time. Additionally, investing in education and training for underrepresented students can increase the pool of qualified candidates and help address existing shortages of healthcare professionals, particularly in underserved areas.
In terms of who should pick up the cost, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Healthcare organizations, government agencies, philanthropic organizations, and other stakeholders can all play a role in supporting DEI initiatives in healthcare education and recruiting. Healthcare organizations can invest in recruiting initiatives and offer scholarships or other financial support to students from underrepresented groups. Government agencies can provide funding and support for healthcare education and training programs that prioritize DEI. Philanthropic organizations can provide grants and other forms of financial support to organizations that prioritize DEI in their work.
Overall, investing in DEI initiatives in healthcare education and recruiting can have significant long-term benefits for healthcare organizations, patients, and society. While there may be costs associated with these initiatives, the benefits can outweigh the costs over time.
Inclusive Hiring Practices
One solution for healthcare organizations struggling to fill roles is to partner with staffing companies that prioritize DEI in their hiring practices. These companies can provide healthcare organizations with access to a more diverse pool of candidates, increasing the likelihood of finding the right fit for open roles. Additionally, staffing companies can provide training and education on DEI issues to healthcare organizations, helping them create a more inclusive workplace culture. Shannon Block, Equiliem’s Chief Administrative Officer, stays close to the frontlines of DEI and healthcare providers, “I believe that to find the best talent truly, we need to go above and beyond traditional recruiting methods and outreach to underrepresented communities.” Block added, “It’s not just about filling positions but about finding qualified candidates from all backgrounds and giving them the support they need to succeed. As a healthcare staffing company, it’s our responsibility to help our clients create a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the patients they serve. By prioritizing DEI in our recruiting efforts and providing ongoing support and mentorship to our candidates, we can help create a more equitable healthcare system.”
It is encouraging to see healthcare organizations and staffing companies addressing the increased importance of DEI. However, there is still much work to be done to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive healthcare workforce. We must continue to prioritize DEI in healthcare education and recruiting and ensure that qualified candidates from all backgrounds have access to healthcare careers and are supported in their professional development. It is crucial to ensure that once individuals are placed in healthcare jobs, they are treated equally and feel like a vital part of the workplace.
Let’s continue the conversation! What DEI initiatives have you been a part of? What actions are needed to create a more equitable and inclusive healthcare system?
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