Diversity and Inclusion – Putting them into Practice in Healthcare

While diversity and inclusion are essential elements in all businesses and settings today, they are particularly important in healthcare where people’s lives and health are at stake. Ensuring healthcare services are fair and accessible to all is crucial as patient populations are becoming increasingly diverse.

Nursing agencies are also facing challenges in recruiting healthcare staff. Studies have shown that health outcomes are better for patients when they can relate to and communicate clearly with their healthcare providers. Clearly, recruiting and attracting diverse candidates to the healthcare profession should be a priority. This article defines diversity and inclusion, why they matter and suggests ways to practice them effectively in healthcare organisations.


What Do Diversity and Inclusion mean?

Diversity and Inclusion have become terms that complement each other. Let’s consider what diversity means first:

Diversity refers to the differences that differentiate groups from each other. The Equality Act 2010, recognises groups with the differences below:

  • Ethnicity
  • Colour
  • Gender identity and expression
  • Faith or religion
  • Socioeconomic class
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Marital status

While discrimination based on any of these differences is illegal, new groups have emerged in society and include language, culture, education, neurodiversity and mental health, among others.

Inclusion is the practice of creating an environment and ethos where everyone belongs and feels valued regardless of individual differences. Ideally, a healthcare team should represent the patient population they are looking after. In the next section, we consider why diversity and inclusion are so important in healthcare.


Why Diversity and Inclusion are so important

Effective inclusion requires commitment and investment from management and often involves changing the mindset at work. It brings enormous benefits to the healthcare sector, its staff and the public it serves. Consider the following benefits:


Better outcomes for diverse patient populations

Patients respond better to healthcare staff that they can relate to, communicate with and develop rapport. Clear communication is critical in healthcare, where patients must express their needs and staff rely on information to diagnose their conditions and address their health issues. Effective communication is necessary to reduce health disparities.


Higher levels of productivity and staff engagement

When staff work in an environment where they feel valued and included, their motivation levels are higher. If they feel more secure at work they will perform better.


Higher levels of staff retention

When the ethos at work is fair and inclusive, healthcare workers are more likely to feel connected to their team and be happier at work. Happier employees are more likely to continue working in a positive environment.


Creates better teamwork

Diversity within teams means the availability of a greater range of skills and expertise. Often there is more cultural awareness and language knowledge within diverse teams. Where staff feel they can express themselves at work, they feel less pressure to fit in and are more likely to perform better within teams.


Wider recruitment 

An effort to attract a wider talent pool to the healthcare profession introduces fresh ideas and a variety of perspectives to the organisation, which helps with problem-solving and innovation. When an organisation promotes itself as inclusive, it sends out positive messages to potential employees.


How to put Diversity and Inclusion into practice

There are simple steps you can take to ensure that diversity and inclusion are put into practice in the health service. Consider the suggestions below:


Provide up-to-date training on diversity and inclusion for all staff members. Many people have unconscious and personal biases that affect their perceptions of diverse colleagues and patients. Sometimes although the biases do not even align with their values, they can affect decision-making and levels of care administered to patients. Specialised training can help staff recognise their biases and be mindful of how they impact equality within the service.


Find ways of attracting and recruiting diverse applicants. Consider carefully where you advertise jobs to ensure that they reach a broad range of candidates that include a variety of age groups and backgrounds. Advertise jobs on online platforms that diverse candidates frequent. Build up partnerships and relationships with community colleges and schools and invite pupils and students to come on work experience and develop an interest in a healthcare career.


Use inclusive language in your job advertisements to attract a variety of candidates. If a recruiter has an idea of their ideal candidate, they may have a tendency to write a job description that targets a very specific applicant. Screen job descriptions and advertisements carefully for gender-coded language and aim to use neutral pronouns.


Consider using software that can help you detect bias and write more inclusive job advertisements. There is a variety of software available that can usually be used along with candidate tracking systems. Always avoid listing prerequisites that exclude older or younger applicants.


Have a recruitment team A collaborative hiring team is more likely to have different perspectives and less biased opinions about the best candidate for the job. A diverse recruitment team should be involved in hiring. It is more encouraging for candidates to engage with diverse team members.


Highlight benefits that embrace a range of circumstances including flexible working times, part-time positions and further training opportunities. If certain necessary skills can be learned at work, mention them on the job listing. Emphasise career pathways that promote the development of underrepresented groups.


Mention your organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the job listing. Make candidates aware that your organisation is invested in diversity and inclusion. Share initiatives the organisation has taken to promote diversity on social media and ensure branding and messaging on the company site are inclusive and accessible.


Foster a working environment that includes everyone. Translate greetings and documents into different languages and recognise holidays and festivals that staff and patients celebrate within their traditions. Avoid religious symbols that exclude minorities. Be aware of how to include everyone in staff social events and team-building ventures. Seek ideas from staff on what they would enjoy doing with colleagues.


Get regular feedback from staff on how to improve the workplace for them and make it more inclusive. Ensure that all staff members know how to address issues around bias or inequality. Have a policy in place so that staff know exactly how to address concerns in a supportive environment.


Implement a clear diversity and inclusion strategy with targets and goals that are as measurable as business goals. If staff have been trained in diversity and inclusion, it should be followed up and its effectiveness reviewed and assessed. Employees should understand their role in helping to reach diversity and inclusion targets.

If you’re interested in agency work with a professional agency, contact Access Healthcare for more information.