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Recruiting a Diverse Workforce in Healthcare

How and Why to Recruit a Diverse Workforce in Healthcare
Andriy Popov/123RF.com

The prevailing wisdom is that a diverse workforce in the healthcare industry can lead to better patient outcomes. A workforce that better represents patients may be more adept in practicing cultural competency, awareness, and sensitivity. Institutions that work toward diversity in their recruitment and acquisition can see many positive results for their efforts; as their workforce expands to better meet the needs of their consumers, their environment and brand may also reap benefits. Moving toward a more diverse facility is something almost every healthcare provider should prioritize.

Where We Are Today

The 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics reported overall stats on hospital workers: with about 76% female representation, 74% were white, while African-Americans only comprised about 15% of the total. With Asians around 8% and Hispanic/Latino workers around 10%, the argument could be made that higher representation should be the goal for most institutions.

Among physicians, about 72% overall are white, 40% women, 8% African-American; 18% Asian and 7% Latino. For nursing,  psychiatric, and home health aides, approximately 65% overall are white; 87% female, 25% African-American, 5% Asian and 18% Latino. Still another study reveals there has been a decrease in the number of African American males applying to and entering medical school from 1978 to 2014.

Developing a Diversity Protocol

How can healthcare providers increase diversity in their workforce? It may start with baseline information. Examining current data to see where you are in relation to the industry overall, for example, may be a starting point. You may be able to acquire data on enrollment and graduation rates from the universities that you work with to see if your representation is in line. If not, you can begin to target efforts on increasing hires in those areas.

Once you’ve determined a target demographic, tailor recruitment efforts that speak to that community. Cultivating relationships with historically black colleges and universities may be a stepping off point. In nursing, for example, many HBCUs have dedicated programs. For physicians, Howard, Morehouse, and other others have prestigious medical programs. Cultivating relationships with these educators could be a first step in promoting a more diverse workforce in your facility. While the completion may be fierce for these grads, there are other ways you can expand your workforce.

Targeted Advertising

Where you post vacancies can have an impact on who is responding. Expanding your advertising to a wider range of candidates can be helpful. If you’re in a rural area and having difficulty hiring, it might be time to consider offers of relocation expenses. Broadening your reach beyond the local to regional and national advertising on job boards targeted at the careers you look to fill can provide a wider, more diverse applicant pool.

Crafting Ads that Attract

Make sure your postings outline your commitment to a diverse workforce. In fact, it’s acceptable to indicate you’re looking to enhance diversity. Use language that attracts, rather than deters, applicants from applying. Looking for more women? Avoid language that skews male: words like aggressive, or high-pressure tend to dissuade female candidates. Looking for more men? Shift your language from nurturing and compassionate (not that men can’t be) to more generic terms. Requesting bilingual skills can help increase representation, as well.

Promoting a Diverse Workforce

A link to your career page should include images of a diverse workforce to keep all categories of applicants interested in applying.  Candidates who don’t see anyone who looks like them on any page of your website will get the message: they may not be welcome. Make sure your Internet presence not only promotes diversity and inclusion, but reflects it as well.  Imaging, messaging, and even testimonials from a representative range emphasize your commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Converting Resumes to Hires

Efforts to recruit a more diverse candidate pool will fail if recruiters and hiring authorities aren’t on board. As you actively seek resumes of candidates that can help increase representation, it’s important to be mindful that those efforts are bearing fruit. If not, is it possible some candidates are being over-screened? Work with hiring authorities to assure consistency across all categories of job seekers when it comes to screening.

For some facilities, blind applications are a viable solution. Using screening software to remove names and other racial or gender indicators can help increase your chances of creating a more diverse workplace.

As the market for top talent continues to shrink, healthcare providers may be feeling the crunch when it comes to hiring. Increasing diversity in your workforce may seem like an extra challenge in this market, but a diverse and inclusive workforce is well worth the effort.

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About Riia O'Donnell

Riia O’Donnell has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in all aspects of the Human Resource function. Beginning as a recruiter, she grew to lead in all areas of HR, including employee training and development, legal compliance, benefits administration, compensation evaluation, and staff management. She has been a contributing writer for a wealth of HR, training, and small business websites for the past 7 years. Connect with Riia on Twitter at @RiiaOD.