"You can provide quality patient care without having, for example, a Burmese patient treated by a Burmese nurse or physician," Jones says. "But organizationally you have to make sure that employees are aware of these differences and they are sensitive enough to know that differences aren't necessarily a bad thing. Employees must understand those differences need to be addressed on the front end so we can provide that care where a patient feels comfortable enough to raise concerns without it being a situation that leads to poor patient satisfaction and poor quality of care."
At IU Health, Jones says the initial push for workforce diversity was met with skepticism.
"Some people believe that when we became intentional about increasing the numbers of minority professionals that this was about just hiring someone because they happened to be Korean- or African-American and they happened to be a pharmacist on top of that," Jones says. "That was never the intent. It was always about finding the best talent available. We had to help people understand that the focus from an HR perspective was on qualifications and not just skin color."
If hospitals and healthcare organizations aren't making a move toward a more diverse workforce, they will find themselves falling further behind the nation's rapidly changing demographics.
"Most researchers will tell you by 2020-2030 minorities will become the majorities in the U.S.," Jones says. "The discussion needs to be about how do organizations get to the point of being able to fully embrace diversity in the workplace and how we are then culturally competent and sensitive to the patients we serve."