The healthcare industry is in a constant state of flux. But while technologies are rapidly changing, the industry is still cast in monochrome with little racial or gender diversity. There are definitely large societal issues at root – like the massive expense of becoming a doctor and lack of adequate STEM education in many inner-city elementary schools – that will take a generation to solve. But while these massive gaps remain, it is often hard to see incremental progress.
Recently, I found a study that gave me a small glimmer of hope that progress is happening. According to Professional Diversity Network, recruiters and HR professionals accelerated their search for diverse talent in healthcare in January. Specifically, the Professional Diversity Network’s Diversity Jobs Index, which tracks the demand for diverse talent across sectors, jumped 11 percent from December 2014 in healthcare.
The Professional Diversity Network pointed to a few factors that could have attributed to the change. For example, the study suggests that many more small clinics across the country, particularly in urban settings, have increased their workforces.
While the Professional Diversity Network pointed to trends that could be the cause, I believe this is evidence that diversity programs like the Institute for Diversity, Ms. Tech and Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy are finally beginning to have an impact not just on awareness, but also on behaviors.
Diversity programs are crucial because they not only acknowledge that problems exist, but they create communities to offer training and support to help women, minorities, and other under-acknowledged groups succeed. For example, IHSCA prepares inner city high school students for a career in healthcare with tutoring and mentorship programs.
This is great news not only for the women, minorities, veterans or disabled professionals being employed, but also for the healthcare industry as a whole. Healthcare professionals service every ethnic group and gender, so the more that doctors and nurses can empathize and understand their patients, the better care they will give. In part, that empathy and understanding relies on working in a diverse environment.
So to answer the question I posed in the headline: yes we should get our hopes up. Healthcare executives are in fact beginning to value and invest in diversity, which is a sign of positive change. There is still a long way to go, and who knows if there will ever be an all minority board of a hospital, but we’re heading in the right direction.