In May of 2020, amid an unprecedented global pandemic which had already begun to shine a harsh light on inequities in health care, many Americans sat glued to their sofas as the tragic murder of George Floyd played on an unending loop across their screens. Soon, protests followed; across the country, in large towns and small, the young and the not-so-young chanted, "Say his name" and "I can’t breathe."
Finally, in what seemed like a watershed moment across the nation, corporate America began to truly listen, and many health care organizations began or reinvigorated the important work of incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into their systems in meaningful, measurable, goal-driven ways.
As the pandemic has highlighted, disparities in access to health care exist and, along with unconscious bias and systemic barriers, have resulted in a documented outcome gap for some groups. Higher maternal and infant mortality rates in childbirth is just one example of poorer outcomes for people of color, but studies that have explored outcomes in other areas of health have also unearthed similar results.
There is also a business case that can be made for the critical importance of DEI efforts in health care organizations. At a time that staffing across the health care enterprise is a burning issue on the minds of many CEOs, the cost of a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace can also be felt in poor employee retention.
A recent study by Press Ganey found that health systems that incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their culture have less risk of staffing turnover amongst all employees than those who do not. Additionally, companies with a diverse workforce have been shown to be more effective at communication and have better financial results.
Since 1990, the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR), formerly known as the ASPR, has provided support for physician recruitment professionals as they engage in the critical work of sourcing and hiring health care providers. With close to 2,000 members, AAPPR is in a unique position to provide the skills, knowledge base, training and support needed for members to be successful in the ever-changing health care landscape.
This year, for the first time, AAPPR is offering a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Micro-Course and credential as part of its annual conference. The goal, explains Russ Peal, CPRP, AAPPR board member, is to give recruiters the tools and credibility needed to lead and facilitate change at the system level. "We want to equip them to lead and facilitate these discussions," Peal said. "We want to create a lane for our recruiters who we believe are so central to be the right hand to the C-suite in these efforts."
Peal, who serves as the Director, Workforce Recruitment and Retention for the Veterans Health Administration, and his fellow committee members have been pivotal in the development of the curriculum, and the content has been peer-reviewed by fellow physician/provider recruiters. This full-day course, designed specifically for health care recruiters who hold the CPRP certification, will help participants define the positive impacts of embracing diversity, equity and inclusion within a hospital or health system, including benefits in staff retention, employee satisfaction and bottom-line success. As Peal notes, "There is an economic imperative to embracing diversity. It affects the bottom line if they don’t."
Using a combination of self-guided pre-course work and live instruction, participants will explore the concept of bias, including implicit and unconscious bias, and how bias can impact sourcing efforts, interviewing, and hiring providers. They’ll learn to recognize systemic and individual barriers, including systemic blockages in the recruitment process, and how to advocate for and drive change in those processes through the development of an effective DEI recruitment plan. AAPPR anticipates offering the course more in the future.
By the completion of the training, participants will be able to demonstrate new skills in developing job descriptions, crafting ads, sourcing from a diverse and widened candidate pool and employing neutral interview techniques. Successful completion of this course provides an added credential for those already holding a current CPRP certification.
But diversity in recruitment is not enough, cautions Peal. Just focusing on sourcing and recruiting without an equal effort to inculcate equity and inclusion into the fabric of the organization is leaving the work half done. "The key is not just recruiting from diverse populations," he said, "but allowing those folks who you recruit to be able to see themselves migrate upwards within the organization."
Physician/provider recruitment is a key function to the health and success of health care organizations. It will likely assume an even greater importance in the years to come, as provider shortages are driven by an increase in the demand for services and a decrease in provider supply. Recruiters can bring additional value to their organizations and to their stakeholders by developing and demonstrating a skill set that will support and drive diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within the systems they serve.
Kelly Cottrell is a Regional Director, Physician Recruitment for LifePoint Health, focusing on the Virginia market. After a career in the provision of mental health services, Kelly found recruitment in 2002 and has been enjoying serving her communities ever since.
Kelly Cottrell, CPRP, CDR