Rewards of Diversity in Healthcare Leadership
The rewards of achieving robust leadership diversity and culturally competent care are important, providing both clinical and financial benefits for healthcare organizations.
A report by B.E. Smith, Exploring the Benefits of Leadership Diversity, shows that despite progress in recent years, there remains room for considerable improvement in leadership diversity in healthcare. A 2015 survey by American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management found that while minorities represented 32% of patients in hospitals, they comprised only 14% of hospital board members, 11% of executive leadership, and 19% of mid-level and first-level managers.
On gender, despite a healthcare workforce that is 80% female, women occupy approximately 25% of hospital CEO positions. Representation by women of color is in the single digits.
The clinical benefits of a diverse C-suite reflect the need for healthcare organizations to represent the communities they serve and provide services that fully engage community members. Culturally competent care can more effectively target the communities, providing proactive care that is population based while focusing on the local determinants of health. Not only can this result in improved quality outcomes, but it also can be more efficient, particularly in treating chronic conditions and reducing hospital readmissions.
Diversity in healthcare leadership also is an important because it helps promote trust and confidence in the healthcare organization. From leadership to the front lines of a healthcare organization, it’s critical that patients see people who look like them and have shared experiences, so they are more likely to engage with the health organization and take part in the care of themselves and their families. This can also help avoid mistrust of a large healthcare system.
Patient engagement is vital in the highly competitive environment of today’s healthcare industry, so diversity in leadership also can be a competitive advantage. When consumers have their choice of care providers, a healthcare organization that mirrors the community it serves brings additional leverage to the marketplace.
Diversity also can be a competitive advance in recruiting, hiring, and retaining quality nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals – including leaders. Like patient engagement, the engagement of clinical and nonclinical team members and leaders at a healthcare organization is crucial to recruitment and retention, so diversity should be an important consideration to make all feel welcome.
While diversity in race, ethnicity and gender are vital, other levels of diversity also are important. Generational diversity at healthcare organizations also must be considered. The patient population is aging, but it also encompasses all ages. A generation shift is occurring in the healthcare workforce, with a wave of retirements among Baby-Boomer clinical and nonclinical staff and an influx of Millennial nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals. Leadership can benefit from generational inclusiveness for better engagement with the patient population and with clinical and nonclinical staff, the latter for the purposes of recruitment, retention and improved management.
Healthcare organizations need experiential diversity in leadership to blend a variety of patient care and administrative skill sets, institutional and business knowledge, and vitality that together can improve innovation and responsiveness.
While challenging, the rewards of achieving leadership diversity and culturally competent care are significant. As the B.E. Smith leadership diversity report highlighted, the clinical and financial benefits demonstrate a strong case for why healthcare organizations should pursue diversity in ethnicity, gender, generations, and experience in leadership and workforce.