Though many of us would not care to admit it, we all have implicit biases. These are unconscious feelings we have towards the people we interact with. And while nurses dedicate their lives to providing outstanding care and promoting health equity, they are still prone to having biases, just like everyone else. But, we do have some goods new. Learning how to recognize and handle these preconceived notions is an important step you can take to become a better nurse! So, let’s dive into how you can identify biases in nursing and how you can ensure that they don’t affect the quality of your care.
How Recognizing Biases in Nursing Can Make You a Better Nurse
Implicit biases against patients of a different race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and social group can be dangerous. They can lead to health disparities, which include a number of negative consequences such as undertreatment and poor patient relationships. These repercussions can impact the health of your patients for several reasons. For example, if a patient feels as though their nurse is biased against them, they are less likely to trust that individual. A breakdown in trust could cause patients to disregard a healthcare worker’s advice or even discourage them from seeking further treatment. While it may not be easy to examine your own faults, it is necessary to be aware of how your biases could be affecting your patients. But, this is only one of the many ways you can improve your care! Continue reading for more approaches you can take to manage your implicit biases.
Strategies for Combatting Biases in Nursing
According to Lippincott NursingCenter, there are several ways that you can prevent unconscious biases from affecting your care. Follow along as we break down each one below!
Though we already touched on this above, it’s definitely worth revisiting. As a nurse, you will be caring for people from all walks of life and this can require a great deal of self-reflection. You must focus on your own beliefs in order to understand how they could to implicit biases. Once you recognize the influence of these beliefs, you can start to adopt behaviors that minimize them during the interactions you have with your patients. Looking within yourself at your core values will help you become a better nurse because it will make you more aware of the effect you have on others. That is why personal awareness is an integral first step in combatting biases in nursing!
Once you discover your implicit biases, you have to own them. Yes, their existence in your subconscious may be a natural part of the human experience. But, you still have control over how they affect your behavior. But, you cannot control something that you haven’t taken responsibility for yet. It may not be easy, but acknowledgment is a key part of this process!
Empathy is absolutely essential for effective care. In order to treat someone, you need to be able to understand their circumstances and how they are feeling. This is especially true for nurses, as they will spend a great deal of time with the people who are under their care. Allowing yourself to look at things through your patients’ eyes will help you become a better nurse, even if a patient’s pain was self-inflicted. For instance, it may be hard to empathize with a patient who suffers from substance abuse. Perhaps you, as their provider, cannot understand why they would turn to drug abuse. While this may be the case, you should not let this affect the quality of your care. Every patient deserves unbiased treatment, so do your best to understand why your patient may have turned to these behaviors and how they continue to struggle with them.
No, in this case, we’re not talking about picket lines or hand-painted signs. We’re talking about advocacy in the context of healthcare. It’s your job as a nurse to support your patients as they receive care. And, you should do this as thoroughly as possible. If you are collaborating with other healthcare professionals, identifying the safest treatment plans, and protecting a patient’s rights, you are participating in advocacy. You can actively combat your unconscious biases by treating all patients this way, regardless of who they are and what their situation may be. It is no surprise that health advocacy will improve your quality of care immensely. Not only will it make you a better nurse, but it will also help to put your patients’ minds at ease. People can generally tell when you have their best interest at hand, so don’t skip out on this practice!
Sharing information about biases in nursing is a crucial way to combat this issue. Information can be shared through conventional courses, where healthcare providers can learn more about recognizing and handling their implicit biases. After reading this blog and doing some research, you can also help to spread awareness about this problem! During your shifts, you open up a dialogue about biases in nursing and how they affect care. You can also bring up your thoughts in staff meetings and encourage others to share their input. Educating other staff members is beneficial to everyone in your work environment. This creates a more accepting work environment and also ensures that everyone is administering the best care possible! Change cannot come about without educating others, so start doing your part today!
What are some ways that you and your team handle biases in nursing? Please share your feedback with us in the comments below!