Hospitals Lag in Workforce Diversity

John Commins, June 18, 2012

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the nation's hospitals employ more than 4.8 million people, making these centers of healing powerful economic engines for the communities they serve.

Unfortunately, when it comes to diversity in the workforce, hospitals are not leading the way. According to a survey from the American Hospital Association's Health Research and Educational Trust, minorities represent 29% of all patients, but only 14% of hospital board members, and 14% of executive leadership.

"We have a long way to go and we knew that," says Matt Fenwick, director of Program and Partnership Development at HRET. "This survey was our attempt to understand where we are in the field so we have hard figures so that going forward we can set some goals and milestones. The survey does crystallize this issue for a lot of folks."

Still, some progress is being made. HRET says 65% of hospitals incorporate diversity management into their budgets, 48% have action plans to recruit and retain a diverse workforce that reflects their patient population, and 42% have a program to identify qualified minority workers for promotion.

The push for workforce diversity is not about being politically correct. Ultimately, if a hospital's workforce more closely resembles the patient population it serves quality measures and patient satisfaction scores will improve.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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