Due to dynamic social changes, healthcare providers are exposed to various issues related to the sphere of their work, one of which is the issue of diversity and health. The matter consists in the fact that the number of people who represent the cultural and ethnic diversity among healthcare professionals is rather low. Therefore, the current memo papers state that the lack of diversity is a healthcare problem which should be resolved. In order to suggest effective solutions, the main reasons leading to such situation must be thoroughly discussed.
To begin with, it is necessary to define the meaning of the notion under consideration. Diversity in healthcare professions is based on the variety of the people who need medical help and those who provide it, as well as on their cultural and ethnic origin. Sometimes, the concept of diversity in healthcare professions is referred to as health disparities. Scholars usually explore the case of underrepresented minorities from the two different angles. Firstly, diversity is considered in a relation to health-care providers. Secondly, the lack of diversity is discussed in relation to health-care recipients. The most widespread disparities in healthcare professions are described below.
Diversity and health is a moral and economic problem that should be a public policy imperative. The current status of diversity in health profession schools and health professions as such is represented in a number of surveys and studies. In fact, statistical data is the most precise way to explore the issue. In the United States, the diversity of general population consists of African Americans, American Indians, Asians, and other minorities. They constitute approximately one quarter of the population, but according to the 2000 census, there are far lower percentages of health professionals. These and other minorities are underrepresented with the proportion that ranged from 9.9 percent among pharmacists in 2000 to 5.4 percent among dentists in 2003. In conformity with official data, there is a higher level of diversity in health profession schools in the present in comparison to the situation in the previous years. The most recent information demonstrates that the situation with diversity improves: “in 2000, 12.5% of the RN population was nonwhite or Hispanic, by 2008, it grew to 16.8%”. This tendency is based on the steadily increasing number of nursing education programs that are launched in many states of the country. However, the major question regarding the reasons for the lack of diversity in healthcare professions requires answering.
Several factors are considered to be the main causes of the situation discussed. Before proceeding with them, it should be noted that diversity is the part of historical development of the United States and reflects certain views that were introduced in the past. The impact of these views is great and partly explains the reasons of diversity, which are as follows:
There are no proper strategies that promote diversity basing on contemporary admissions policies. The lack of variety is also the consequence of the narrow policy environment, the educational pipeline, and the institutional culture that excludes multicultural surrounding. According to the research conducted by a group of scientists, due to this reason, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, or physicians, African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives are markedly underrepresented relative to their shares in the overall U.S. population. Promoting diversity relates to a number of challenges that universities try to avoid. Even though educational establishments around the country develop new policies, there is still much to be improved.
Another reason lies in the fact that people from cultural and ethnic minorities reject the idea of becoming healthcare professionals intentionally since educators at universities do not concentrate on the differences among divergent groups of the population. They ignore the peculiarities of their work, based on cultural and ethnic foundations. Some scholars support this idea arguing that people in the healthcare profession require the skills to establish effective communication among divergent groups. The lack of sensitivity to the issues of stereotyping, prejudice, and racism also explains the matter at hand. In addition, people that form diversity among professionals may feel underprivileged or may consider working in the given field not beneficial.
Other circumstances that lead to a problem include the fact that most people do not participate in the attempts to solve it. Thus, the problem with diversity may simply be left with no proper attention. Such indifference may appear as a response to the popular notion that given the increasing ethnic diversity of our societies, no training can prepare learners for all the issues that arise. In addition to this statement, diversity may even be repressed in connection to language problems that people from various cultures sometimes experience. This frustration is more tangible in relationships between a doctor and a patient, because patients may not trust the doctors that come from a different culture. Such tendency may occur during interactions with older people. Older generation feels suspicious and insecure when treated by the members of other social groups, because they believe that ethnicity remains a significant predictor of the quality of care received. The above reason is directly connected to stereotypes, prejudice, and racial discrimination, which affected America in the twentieth century and still have they influence on diversity in healthcare professions in the present time. The concepts connected to discrimination suppress the multicultural component among healthcare providers. Therefore, the lack of diversity is a moral problem which limits the opportunities for healthcare providers representing diverse social groups.
Therefore, it is possible to conclude that the lack of diversity in healthcare professions is the result of social factors, official policies, stereotypes, and prejudice. Since culture and ethnicity create divergence, they may have their outcomes in the form of moral and social obstacles that need to be eliminated. In order to develop an equal access to professions, healthcare providers and recipients should promote and support diversity.