First impressions are instinctual responses that help you quickly decide how to respond to new people and influence your behavior around them.
Overcoming Different Patient-Care Hurdles
However, this natural desire may morph into a more insipid bias towards another person when left unchecked. These biases can become a problem for you in your professional life, especially if you opt for a healthcare career.
As a nurse, you have taken an oath to do no harm and care for all your patients. But if you cannot look beyond your prejudices, you stand in violation of this oath and create undue friction at your workplace.
A hospital is no place to exercise your biases since delaying patient care can easily translate into severe consequences for them.
Therefore, when you attend to patients, here are some ways you can provide optimal care that is free of prejudices:
1. Don’t Allow Stereotypes To Cloud Your Judgement
Minorities such as Native and African Americans and even Hispanics are viewed unfavorably by a significant chunk of the medical field.
When they seek treatment, most are either denied service or provided with inadequate care. The bias stems from distrust, which comes from racist tropes and harmful assumptions.
According to a 2017 survey, black American women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white American women.
Healthcare workers assume black people have higher pain tolerance, so these women aren’t usually offered anesthesia while delivering babies.
This results in painful births, excessive bleeding, and even injury to them or their child for many black women.
As a nurse, patients will come to you before doctors administer care. You will need to establish a protocol to ensure your patent gets appropriate help. If you and your colleague are guilty of being biased, you need to stop.
This is the only way to combat Implicit Bias in Nursing and provide the necessary care your patient needs. Pain, education, and a patient’s intention have nothing to do with skin color, and you should never let that factor in your attitude towards anybody.
2. Look Beyond Your Patient’s Weight
A patient’s physical appearance makes it difficult to seek proper care. Obese and overweight patients go through harsher scrutiny, judgment, and reductionist criticism.
Most of their concerns are dismissed without asking about their symptoms in-depth or attributed to their weight.
According to a survey in 2016, more than 40% of American healthcare professionals have held opposing views on patients with obesity.
These views include the false beliefs that obese patients are lazy, feel pain because of their weight, and are unmotivated to change their lifestyle. However, that is not the case and leads to many medical misdiagnoses where blood clots, ovarian cancer, and kidney stones remain untreated because of prejudices.
When a patient comes in for a checkup, you should first ask them all relevant questions without attacking their weight.
You will need to get information about their symptoms, run the appropriate tests, and get accurate data on previous medical treatments and history.
A patient’s weight only goes into their file and will be considered the last resort in the contributing problem. A patient’s symptoms and lab diagnosis should always take precedence.
3. Gender Is Not A Symptom
The healthcare sector is biased towards gender. In 2018 a survey on American women patients found that most get their pain and symptoms filed away as an exaggeration.
Most healthcare professionals disregard female patients and fail to discern their complaints adequately.
Women who complain are dismissed as overly emotional, manipulative, or pathologically incapable of the truth. Even in the ER, most women get made to wait about 65 minutes, while most men get painkillers after 40 minutes.
This leads to women getting delayed treatment, an escalation of their illness, and possible death.
As a nurse, you should try and be evenhanded with every patient, no matter their gender. Listen to their complaints about pain and discomfort and take stock of all their grievances.
Run lab tests, check their vital signs and inquire about their medicines. If the pain is out of control, you should immediately administer painkillers.
Encourage male patients to express their symptoms without making unnecessary machismo get in the mix. When you don’t discriminate based on gender, you will also establish a name for yourself as a safe person even transgender patients can come to for care.
This is pivotal because about one-third of transgender people don’t seek treatment because of unfair bias.
4. Protect Disabled Patients
The healthcare sector can be insensitive towards disabled patients. This widespread belief is that disabled patients consume too many resources such as medicines in a hospital room and draw on hospital funds for accommodations such as disability access. In addition, most practitioners don’t think disabled patients are worth extensive treatment and end up treating them poorly.
Disabled patients consequently end up getting a lower quality of treatment. As a nurse, you need to educate yourself on various disabilities and their impact on mental health.
You should familiarize yourself with the appropriate language, signs, and questions to help your patients without assaulting their dignity.
While at the hospital, you should offer disabled patients the same quality of treatment by making frequent rounds to their rooms.
Ensure the patient always has an attending nurse. You should never leave them in a vulnerable position unattended for long and speak up if you see any red flags such as neglect or abuse.
5. Educate Yourself On Different Cultures
You will get patients from different socioeconomic backgrounds, coming from other cultures, with varying levels of education.
Hospitals often look at wealthy patients more favorably, assuming they are responsible and never abuse drugs, as low-income families are scandalized for.
Prejudices like these deny patients from getting proper healthcare. Immigrants often get no treatment, are not referred to a specialist, and are not allowed follow-ups.
You should never follow the same example. It is your job to educate yourself on different cultures and principles. This will help you humanize your patients and see them in a different light outside of preconceived notions.
You should converse with your patients, learning about them to build your understanding. When you overcome biases about them, you will provide quality treatment and prevent unnecessary repercussions.
Unfair, biased opinions can malign patients and deny them quality care. As a healthcare professional, it is your job to look after all your patients, no matter what gender, socioeconomic background, or skin tone they have.
When you allow prejudices to sway you, it ends up causing a rift between you and your patients. This results in undiagnosed illnesses, lack of proper care, a patient in intractable pain, and extreme cases, accidental deaths. For the sake of valuable human lives, defeat your bias today.