healthcare workers, racism

Survey: Nearly Half Of Healthcare Workers Have Witnessed Discrimination

Though the report’s focus is on the experience of patients, it notes that racism in the workplace is a common experience for workers in the healthcare industry.

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund and the African American Research Collaborative (AARC) indicates that racism is a serious problem in the healthcare industry.

A survey of over 3,000 healthcare workers found that half reported racism in hospitals and clinics. In fact, 47% of respondents said that they have witnessed discrimination against patients in their facilities, and 52% said racism is either a crisis or major problem in the healthcare industry, USA Today reports.

“The study shines a light on the discrimination and racism healthcare workers observe and the implications for negative health outcomes of patients in many communities,” said Henry Fernandez, CEO of AARC and the report’s lead author. “Understanding this connection at a national level is critical to measuring and addressing discrimination in the healthcare system to mitigate harm to patients and produce better health outcomes overall.”

Though the report’s focus is on the experience of patients, it notes that racism in the workplace is common for workers in the healthcare industry.

Some 58% of Black health care workers surveyed said that they experienced discrimination in their workplaces because of their race or ethnicity. They also expressed a fear of retaliation if they raise concerns about discrimination, despite feeling that their employers are making strides toward addressing racism in their workplaces.

Over two-thirds of health care workers believe that four key actions could help reduce discrimination at their jobs: making it easy to report situations involving racism or discrimination anonymously; actively listening to patients of color and health care workers of color; examining the treatment of non-English speaking patients; and training professional schools or healthcare staff to spot discrimination.

“If we are going to build truly equitable health care systems, we have to start by listening to voices of those on the front lines,” said Dr. Laura Zephyrin, senior vice president for advancing health qequity at the Commonwealth Fund and the report’s co-author, said. “Understanding what health care workers are experiencing, and what they want and need from their employers and colleagues to address discrimination, is critical to successful and sustainable change.”

The report also uncovered that facilities that had mostly Black or Latinx patients had more instances of racism than those who either had a majority white patient base, or no clear majority at all.

Healthcare workers also reported that they dealt with stress due to racial or ethnic discrimination in healthcare, and it is also more prevalent if the workers are in a facility that serves mostly Black or Latinx patients.

According to the report, “Racism in healthcare impacts not only patients but also large numbers of health care workers. Just under half of healthcare workers, and majorities of Black, Latino, and AAPI health care workers, report that dealing with racial or ethnic discrimination in health care creates some or a lot of stress for them.”

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