Communicating With Care and Compassion: A Key to Unlocking Health Care Disparity

White continued to discuss how being self-aware, using the right language, modeling behaviors that support belonging, and fostering an environment with psychological safety is the goal as a a health care provider.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are important elements that can affect the work of health care providers in a dramatic way, according to a session at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Specialty Pharmacy Conference.

Michael Wolcott, PharmD, PhD, BCIDPS, BCPS, director of Educational Resources and Scholarship at University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Dentistry/UNC School of Pharmacy/Duke University Hospital, defined diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and how our attitudes and behaviors toward people or associated stereotypes without any awareness can cause negative implicit bias.

Further, Carla Y. White, BSPharm, RPh, associate dean, Organizational Diversity and Inclusion, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, further discussed the research behind this topic, such as patients reporting less satisfaction, poorer care or communication, and less compliance when there are identity differences.

“There is growing evidence that health disparities are alive and well in health care,” White said. “This connects to stronger linkages to provider bias.”

White continued to discuss how being self-aware, using the right language, modeling behaviors that support belonging, and fostering an environment with psychological safety is the goal as a a health care provider. In terms of self-awareness, Wolcott mentioned how each person’s identity ends up becoming intersectional to further influence our experiences.

“Our identities do not operate in a silo, and our intersectionality is what gives us all different experiences,” Wolcott said.

Being prepared to acknowledge your own identities while reflecting periodically to consider the influence of these aspects on your interactions with colleagues and patients are just a few of the ways we can apply these skills at work, according to White.

Approaching conversations can be a bit tricky, with the provider having to practice listening more than talking and encouraging their patient to speak first/more often. The “switch it” technique is also useful to practice if one is unaware of whether a question is inappropriate, such as switching the person’s identity before asking the questions will give you an answer, according to Wolcott.

“It shows genuine interest in what your patients have to say and like their voice matters if you follow some of these tactics,” Wolcott said.

Even if someone makes a mistake and says the wrong thing, White reminded the viewers that after you acknowledge the errors, apologize, and correct yourself, moving forward is the best thing to do. She additionally noted the importance of taking the initiative and educating yourself online if unsure about a topic versus making assumptions.

Wolcott mentioned psychological safety, which means to show oneself without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status, and career, and how instilling this in a work environment is crucial for the organization to succeed.

Wolcott and White summarized that implicit bias can directly impact our interactions with others and has been linked to changes in the decision-making process. Promoting a sense of belonging and psychological safety can continue to be achieved through communication.

REFERENCE

Wolcott M, White C. Communicating with Care and Compassion: A Key to Unlocking Healthcare Disparity. Presented at: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Specialty Pharmacist Conference. July 14, 2021. Accessed July 14, 2021.