Recognizing Diversity and Cultural Differences in Healthcare Organizations

June 19, 2019

It is imperative for organizations to support diversity and acknowledge individuals’ differences in order to foster better morale, promote creativity and innovations, improve decision making, and create social justice that advocates equity.

Diversity and difference are considerations that will remain at the forefront of healthcare education for years to come. Learning about the production of difference and demographic diversity is an ongoing process and can be a lifetime journey.

It is imperative for organizations to support diversity and acknowledge individuals’ differences in order to foster better morale, promote creativity and innovations, improve decision making, and create social justice that advocates equity1. It is essential to be respectful of diversity (requiring group interaction, dialogue, critical reflection, emotional support, and experiential learning, as well as meeting various learning needs by gender, class, and race).

People who differ in various ways are more likely to have diverse opinions and perspectives. This diversity of thought means there is a deeper base of ideas, opinions, and experiences for problem solving, creativity, and innovation2. If everyone thinks alike, the organization suffers. All employees must be judged based on their competence, and stereotypes and prejudices should be completely erased. Leaders need to recognize the validity of other ways of thinking and doing things. They also need to encourage diversity in organizations by recruiting diverse individuals and contribute to diversity of thought, which is a critical element for greater organizational learning, flexibility, and high performance. Leaders need to create opportunities for everyone to use their unique abilities. This represents the ideal leader and organization. Strong culturally sensitive leadership is the only way organizations can become inclusive. Although it may seem unreachable, many of today’s best leaders are striving to achieve this stage of diversity awareness and acceptance.

It is vital to respect the beliefs and traditions of various ethnical and cultural groups, regardless of their origin. It is essential to establish, promote, and maintain a good safety culture, which will lead to a safe and effective environment. The goal is to acknowledge, respect, and explore cultural identities and challenge the assumption and work towards an equitable health care system. People should reflect on the values of relationships and cooperation and show respect for differences. Everyone has a role to play in fostering an ethical climate and integrating ethics into everyday practice, whether our role is in providing direct care or supporting the provision of care. With the help of multicultural attitudes, respect of cultural and religious practices, and a principle of procedural justice, we can create organizations that are gender-blind and color-blind.

It is significantly important to increase cultural competency in healthcare provision. Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations have not yet addressed the gender and cultural inequalities that currently exist. Change is always necessary if organizations are to survive. It is important not to maintain the status quo and create change.

It is imperative to initiate a process of promoting cultural safety and deal with cultural differences and conflicts. This attempts to respect the cultural and religious practices and a principle of procedural justice. It is critical to attempt integration and adopt cultural and religious practices that discourage racism and discrimination. Racism is still woven into the social fabric of everyday life and there is a need for action against injustices and inequalities. Leaders should create an environment in which members of different groups feel safe to express and discuss their identity.

Language, cultural, and gender differences are significantly important in maintaining communication between patients and healthcare professionals. When patients interact with clinical members who share a common gender, race, ethnicity, or language, there is a higher chance of rapport building3. Conversing in the same language can instill and strengthen the needed cultural values and act as a bridge, linking such populations to healthcare society. This will lead to a greater interpersonal care, better medical comprehension, and higher chance of keeping follow-up appointments.

Different generations have different underlying motivators that influence job performance and satisfaction. Each generation offers a different sets of strengths; therefore, it is essential for leaders to embrace the generational diversity by recruiting a multigenerational workforce. Multigenerational employees contribute to diversity of thought. Older generations could offer support where there is a lack of experience.

The great need for dealing with and understanding challenges in cultural safety education will lead to a safe and effective environment. Organizations need to provide special training to help leaders identify their own cultural boundaries and develop the skills for leading in a diverse multicultural workplace and learning how to communicate and work effectively in a diverse environment.

References:

1. Gathers D. Diversity management: an imperative for healthcare organizations [published online 2003]. Hosp Top. doi: 10.1080/00185860309598023

2. Daft R. (2011). The leadership experience (5th ed). Mason, OH: South-Western.

3. Sethi D, Rani MK. Communication barrier in health care setting as perceived by nurses and patient [published online 2017]. Int J of Nurs Educ. 9(4), 30—35.