By Verlon E. Salley
There is a movement going on in our society that requires all of us to take a closer internal look at the makeup of our respected organizations. The word organization can be defined as an organized body of people with a particular purpose, especially a business, society, association, etc. Therefore, the closer look that may be required by our consciousness should be towards the demographics of the people within our organization. More specifically, our staffs.
Can you say your staff represents the population it serves? You cannot unless you have performed the research. Find the ZIP codes of your primary market area. A simple demographic Google search of those ZIP codes can give you the gender, age ranges and racial profiles of your primary market area. Next, compare that to the demographic makeup of your staff. Why is this exercise even worth the undertaking? Because research has shown that patients respond positive and have more trust when cared for by caregivers that look like them. Your staff, at a minimum, would at least have to reflect the community it serves to achieve this goal.
Think I am overreaching? Then consider this … U.S. News & World Report released an article on July 27, 2021, entitled, “U.S. hospitals struggle to reduce health disparities: Minority patients underrepresented in 4 of 5 hospitals.” The article stated that the representation of nonwhite patients at the top three ranked hospitals in 2021 were all “lower than the community.” Point is, if you are going to adhere to the movement within our society you at least must reflect the community you serve within the ranks of your staff.
I am a Black man that has been at every level of management within radiology (manager, director, executive director, etc.). Throughout my career, I have always seen myself demographically, as one of few. I also felt that the patient care amongst my staff and departments was better, because I gave labor opportunities to all demographics which in turn provided a more comprehensive patient experience. Allow me to give you an example. The demographics of the city of my employer’s primary market area is as followed: 65+% Black, 25+% White, 52% female, and the median age of females is 38. I thought was wise to ensure our mammography department gave opportunities to the most qualified minority candidates that presented. It did not mean we only hired Black people, but I was equitable with our hiring choices. The patient satisfaction scores from this department are amongst the best in our health system and it is not a coincidence that the staff is diverse.
Providing labor opportunities for diversity should not stop at ethnic diversity. Ensuring opportunities for disabled persons, veterans and women should be among the things we look at in our departments as well. Now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to provide opportunities in our labor ranks as well as a better patient experience to our communities.
– Verlon E. Salley is the vice president of community health equity at UAB Health System.