Don’t Stop with Diversity, Focus on Inclusion

Don’t Stop with Diversity, Focus on Inclusion

Shane Parker, RN
Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer

An organization may be able to navigate the ever-changing, dynamic healthcare environment better if they employ a diverse workforce. This important part of achieving success and growth has had many nurse leaders striving to recruit diverse employees, although that’s just the first step. If the organizational culture doesn’t foster inclusion, efforts at increasing organizational diversity may not be effective.

Diversity and inclusion are often referred to interchangeably when each plays an important role in improving an organization’s recruitment and retention efforts. If employees don’t feel comfortable sharing their unique contributions, or feel supported presenting as their authentic selves, they might not choose to work for your organization, or new hires might not stay.

Benefits of a Diverse Staff

Value-based, patient-centered care requires open communication that may help to improve outcomes by providing care based on each patient’s unique needs. With an increasingly diverse patient population with complex healthcare needs, it’s essential to have a diverse nursing staff. Diverse employees may be better able to be respectful of various cultures, respond to unique patient needs, and serve patients from a variety of backgrounds. This can:

  • Facilitate communication and avoid barriers that can lead to patient dissatisfaction
  • Increase awareness of patient cultural values and beliefs
  • Reduce hospital stays and decrease readmission
  • Assist with the development of a nurturing, trusting patient relationship
  • Address beliefs about care and compliance
  • Enhance the ability to identify symptoms and manage care effectively
  • Improve patient collaboration
  • Reduce stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations that can hinder the provision of appropriate patient care

Comparing Diversity and Inclusion

Most nurse leaders realize the importance of recruiting and retaining diverse employees. Encouraging employee development of cultural competencies can be beneficial in achieving patient satisfaction. Recruiting employees with a variety of differences in age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and social backgrounds can provide the organization with a range of perspectives, and the ability to better serve diverse patient needs. But just recruiting diverse staff isn’t enough. If these employees don’t feel as if they have a voice within the organization, and that their input isn’t encouraged and included, then often they won’t be retained.

Nurse leaders should strive to go further than hiring employees of different backgrounds and ethnicities and create an organizational culture that values their contributions. Diversity feeds and builds the culture, but to be successful, this must coincide with a culture that supports empathy and inclusion. This can result in nurse leaders feeling challenged to determine whether to focus on organizational culture, or diversity. Both must be nurtured, and embraced, by all levels of the organization. Start with fostering a mindset of welcoming diversity, and behaviors and actions that embed inclusion. Consider this a long-term approach. Changing mindsets, and organizational culture can take time.

Address Barriers to Inclusion

The benefits of nurturing a diverse nursing staff, and a culture of inclusion, can go beyond improving patient outcomes. Often, the success of an organization is associated with inclusion. Inclusion embraces employee differences by allowing them to feel welcome, respected, supported, and valued. An employee’s belief that they can be their authentic self, instead of feeling as if they must fit into an expected norm, is often influenced by their perception of the organization’s expectations. Education and presentation of organizational views on diversity can be achieved by including information on diversity in policies, and within your mission and values statement.

Nurse talent may be blocked by the perceived expectations of the organizational culture if barriers that may impede the accepting diversity aren’t addressed. Nurse leaders should strive to hold people to the same performance standards and criteria, and not assume what’s best for employees without considering their perspective. For nurses to believe that their differences allow them to make valuable contributions, they should feel that they have equal access to opportunities for advancement and feel encouraged to do their best work.

Create an Inclusive Environment

Nurse leaders can look for discrepancies within the organization to know where to focus.  Information can be gathered through surveys, focus groups, and exit interviews to gain the employee’s perspective. New generations have grown up in an online world and are exposed to a much more diverse world, which can result in diversity being viewed differently by different generations.

Work to create an inclusive environment that welcomes and respects different points of view, and encourages new ideas. A diverse staff can bring varied perspectives and alternate approaches that can benefit organizational growth. Other benefits of nurturing a diverse culture that encourages inclusion in an organization can include:

  • Greater innovation
  • The ability to stay abreast with, or surpass, competitors
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved work performance

A More Diverse World

The world is becoming increasingly diverse, and this is reflected in our patient population, and should be mirrored by our employees. Focusing on recruiting and retaining diverse staff, and then creating an environment that is inclusive of their unique contributions has the potential to do more than benefit patient outcomes. It provides the organization with a range of perspectives, opinions, and ideas that can assist in improving organizational culture.
Article Sources

Diversity and Inclusion: A Beginner’s Guide for HR Professionals

Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity

Healthcare Adjusts to a More Diverse America

How to Make Inclusivity More Than Just an Office Buzzword