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Diversity in Healthcare: Handling Discrimination in the Workplace

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We live in an age where, no matter your gender, race, or religion, you are able to go into any profession you wish. Unfortunately, we also live in a world where there is a large amount of stereotyping and discrimination still taking place. While legally you may be able to take on any role that you would like, there are those who may hold personal beliefs that you are not qualified for your job due to the color of your skin, your age, or other factors. What are you to do when faced with a patient or even a colleague who distrusts you or refuses your service because you or your staff members don’t fit their personal ideal for a doctor or nurse?


  • First and foremost, remember that these types of issues are not about you. You do not have to apologize for who you are. The problem here rests solely on the person who is discriminating or making insensitive remarks.


  • While you may not be able to control the speaker, you can control your own reaction. Remain as calm and as professional as is possible, and remove yourself from the situation if necessary.


  • Work with the staff or management within your practice to create an action plan to deal with clients who make inappropriate and discriminatory remarks. Discuss boundary lines and be clear about when it is time to hand the patient off to another doctor or, if applicable, refuse them service entirely. Remember that each person’s tolerance level is different so there may not be an “across the board” solution to this issue.


  • Ensure that all of your staff has had proper diversity training and that they understand the need for these policies and their enforcement. Make it a company initiative that among staff, no level of intolerance is acceptable, to coworkers or to patients.


  • Always ensure that such interactions are on record with a superior or noted for the future. If you are not in a situation where you can refuse service to a patient who treats you or your staff in a hurtful and discriminatory manner, having something of a “heads up” that is attached to the patient background can help others to prepare themselves for other uncomfortable situations.


  • Know your personal limits and comfort zone, and do not be afraid to say enough is enough. While sometimes you can see past the ignorance of those who would judge based on anything other than merit, there are always those people who simply cannot and should not be tolerated. It is not worth emotional damage to yourself to remain in a truly hurtful situation.


Though there may always be those who would discriminate or show prejudice against others, your skills and knowledge will prove who you are and help you to rise above the uneducated cruelty of those people. Allow yourself to shine as a medical professional and know that for every one of those who would be hurtful, there are dozens more who appreciate your hard work and quality care.

Contributor Kimberly Anders

As the Division Director of pharmacy, allied and healthcare IT recruitment for Soliant, Kimberly brings over 14 years of success in all aspects of the staffing industry to lead operations for a highly recognized and respected brand in pharmacy recruitment. Upon walking into a temporary staffing office, to find part-time work around a college schedule, Kimberly was fixated on developing a career in the recruiting industry. The following 20 years in the profession have provided her the perfect livelihood, a platform to guide, educate and coach talented individuals to fulfilling new jobs. Kimberly is experienced working with pharmacies and pharmacy professionals in large health systems, rural inpatient hospitals, home infusion, ambulatory care, long term care, mail order, retail, PBM and specialty settings across the country. Make sure to check out the rest of her blogs!