Physicians Who Experience Patient Prejudice Lack Resources

Tara Haelle


October 18, 2017

Medical Schools and Teaching Hospitals

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) similarly has not developed formal, specific guidelines for its institutions, according to David Acosta, MD, AAMC's chief diversity and inclusion officer.

"Each teaching hospital and health system sets specific policies, unique to their facility, to address discrimination and processes that enable healthcare providers, including medical students, residents, physicians, nurses, etc., to deal with patients who discriminate against them," he said in a statement to Medscape. He also referenced a recent podcast from the AAMC that touches on this issue.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) also addressed the issue of race and medicine in a recent podcast, part of a series they developed through the Institute for Diversity in Health Management, according to Dr Bhatt, AHA's chief medical officer.

"The question is, what are our obligations when we face these challenges?" Dr Bhatt says. "And our obligation is to manage what we're hearing, care for the patients in the way we best know how clinically, and discuss it with clinical administration leadership so that we can work together to identify ways to address it."

The AHA is also developing a best practices resource guide based on policies that hospitals are already using, Dr Bhatt told Medscape. They expect to complete it by the end of the year. "It's not one-size-fits-all. It's important to have a framework for how to respond when physicians experience these aggressions so that hospitals can design policies and approaches that are consistent with the context of their community and environment."

The podcast series and best practices guide are two resources, but Dr Bhatt acknowledged the need for more. He expects this issue to receive more attention as part of the growing awareness and emphasis on workforce wellness and resilience.

"People's experiences with this issue have an effect on well-being, resilience, and burnout, so we have to be thoughtful about how this issue of racism impacts the ability of clinicians to be well so that they can better care for patients," Dr Bhatt says. "Just as we do safety huddles around preventing medical errors, could we create safety huddles to get input and support from colleagues when these experiences occur?"

These are the kinds of questions that Dr Paul-Emile hopes to answer with her research.

"We want to find out what [physicians'] experiences are, what kind of protocols they'd like to see, and what would make them more likely to report," she says. "It's not just about changing the rules and protocols. We need to change the cultural norms of the institution."


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