How physicians can identify, manage their own racial biases

Physicians are trained to make quick, confident decisions. However, many medical schools and healthcare organizations are now training physicians to slow down this decision-making process, according to CNN.

These organizations are slowing down the physicians in the hopes it will make them more aware of their own unconscious biases that can influence decisions. According to the CNN report, studies indicate physicians' unconscious biases may significantly contribute to racial disparities in healthcare — that African-American patients are often prescribed less pain medication than white patients, for example.

However, unconscious bias can be difficult for most people to see because it is exactly that — unconscious. Diversity consultant Howard Ross, who designs training programs used at some medical schools to help combat these biases, told CNNtraditional diversity training is not effective in helping professionals understand these biases and address them.

Mr. Ross told CNN, "People who seemed to have transformative responses to those [earlier] trainings, to have that kind of 'aha' moment — particularly people in the dominant group, [of] whites, men, heterosexuals — often, if you talk to them a month or two later, they actually felt quite wounded by the experience," referring to traditional trainings used in the 80s and 90s.

Studies support Mr. Ross's remarks, showing that traditional trainings can actually reinforce prejudice rather than improve it, because they can make people feel bad about themselves and the people that make them feel that way, according to the report.

Instead, unconscious bias trainings attempt to help physicians spot their own prejudices and manage them, rather than eliminate them. According to the report, the trainings help physicians see they do carry some bias, and while this may be normal, physicians need to consciously keep them from affecting their decisions.

To read the full report, click here.

 

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