How Do Disparities in the Physician Workforce Affect Patients?

Addressing Workforce Disparities

“I think the take-home message of our work is that we know from existing research and common sense that workforce disparities have a negative impact on patient care,” Dr Silver said. “So we really don’t need to spend a lot more time or money doing more studies to demonstrate what’s obvious.”

“Instead, we should be focusing on fixing workforce disparities rather than waiting another 20 years to develop a larger evidence base to show it has a terrible impact on patients,” she continued.

Dr Silver outlined a 6-step, data-driven strategy to address the workforce disparities in a related article that she coauthored in Pediatrics6 (Table 4).

Table 4. 6-Step Methodology to Improve Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

1. Examine (and re-examine) equity, diversity, and inclusion data
2. Transparently report results to stakeholders
3. Investigate causality
4. Implement strategic interventions
5. Track outcomes and adjust strategies
6. Publish and disseminate results

From Spector ND, et al. Pediatrics. 2019 Sep 23

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“These six steps constitute a cycle of equity, diversity, and inclusion, which provide a strategic methodology [for addressing disparities],” she said. “I think we all need to recognize as much as possible our own unconscious biases and avoid critical thinking errors, which are very common.”

One of these errors, Dr Silver says, is the assumption that an insufficient number of women want to be leaders and that the situation needs to be “fixed” by mentoring more women.

“There are plenty of qualified women for every leadership role in this country,” she said.  

Members of the medical field should also recognize that equitability and inclusivity are themselves core leadership competencies. However, everyone has a role in improving the status quo.

“We all need to worry about this and concern ourselves with the equitable treatment of colleagues, trainees, and staff — meaning, I think that more bystanders need to be ‘upstanders’ and make a difference by speaking up,” Dr Silver said.

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag