Creating the Ideal Healthcare Organization: The Role of Diversity

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jim murphyWe compiled a list of the ten key attributes of the ideal healthcare organization. The first concerned organizational mission, vision, ethics and values. The second was that “employees are treated and compensated fairly and receive great benefits.” The third was about programs, policies, roles and responsibilities.

The fourth is that “diversity of persons, beliefs and outlooks is exhibited, honored and promoted.” This phrasing reflects what has been called the New Diversity or Diversity 3.0.

The concept of diversity has evolved in recent decades. At first (so-called Diversity 1.0) it was about the racial composition and gender distribution of the workforce, with affirmative action as a mechanism or requirement.

The New Diversity (or Diversity 2.0) extended the goal to creating an organization marked by other differences of nature and outlook – sexualities, personality types, age sets, etc. In that way it has the institutional capacity to understand and serve all types of customer.

In so-called Diversity 3.0 organizations recognize that the diversity of many types of employees provides a competitive advantage; the need for innovation is frequently cited in this context. While some might lament the fact, healthcare has become a very competitive industry.

As our population has changed, healthcare organizations have to treat a greater diversity of patients.   One consequence is that they need an equally diverse workforce.  The ideal healthcare organization will thus give this factor due attention in hiring.

All employees thus must have skill in cultural competency. “Frontline” workers, such as attendants and doctors, in particular should be provided with training and development in cultural sensitivity. Nurses have particular needs in recognizing cultural diversity as a factor in patient care. The International Council of Nurses Code of Ethics for Nurses states that they must be “respectful of and unrestricted by considerations of age, color, creed, culture, disability or illness, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, politics, race or social status”

LGBT issues are an important aspect of diversity. They are the subject source of federal mandates and professional programs and policies. Health outcomes for LGBT patients are dependent on nurses’ understanding of differences of and among such patients.

The ideal healthcare organization will have policies and programs about diversity and conduct ongoing training and learning in this area. In addition, it will provide forums (such as discussion groups or health circles) for employees to bring up and discuss problems and opportunities regarding diversity. In healthcare it may be especially difficult to free up work for such purposes but without such discussions the goal will remain elusive. Tools such as medical improv can also play a part here. And employee recognition programs should recognize diversity and efforts to understand and promote.

Diversity awareness and achievement is the responsibility of everyone in the organization. If you are in another leadership position, you can develop or renovate a diversity program. If you are a manager, you can implement and improve these policies via unit meetings and employees reviews. If you are an individual contributor (doctor, nurse, technician, cafeteria worker, and so on), you can demonstrate awareness of, educate yourself on, and even start a discussion group on diversity topics. Even patients may have something to say or to lobby for in this area!

Jim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Being semi-retired, Jim is willing to provide very reasonably priced consulting, coaching or  project work for organizations aspiring to improvement in organizational culture, effectiveness and employee engagement.

Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching.

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One Response to Creating the Ideal Healthcare Organization: The Role of Diversity

  1. Beth Boynton, RN, MS says:

    Thanks for creating a rich platform for promoting diversity on all levels and inspiring discussion about this topic, Jim. It seems so essential and vital for optimal outcomes in healthcare. I would add thoughts about how in healthcare we interface, I think, will the full spectrum of human diversity. What wonderful potential exists to honor, care about and be a resource for so many. Global healing perhaps? On many levels. And research indicates that healthcare professionals are not as diverse as the populations we serve and yet there are health disparities that can be improved by increasing the diversity of professionals! Also, diversity as an element of complex adaptive systems should be included in this discussion, because the more diverse the elements of the system, the more creative problem-solving potential there is. Of course this potential can only be realized if we can form respectful relationships!

What are your thoughts?