Unrecognized and unmanaged unconscious bias can lead to health disparities, resulting in potentially negative consequences, costly missteps, lost time, terminations by the insured, and poor outcomes. Bias defined: a negative evaluation of one group to another. Consider patient groups. If a physician and his staff view your injured employee as uninsured, underinsured, or a malingering work comp patient they may be under tested or treated. Studies show fewer recommendations for advanced medicine and treatment are made for blacks vs. whites. Hard to believe but true.
Injured employees often state that they feel discriminated against. Employers may resent or blame an employee for an accident/injury even though it was no one’s fault. Unconscious bias, which is unintentional, is common and persistent. It is costly too!
Having a nurse case manager on the case to act as watch dog, an advocate, a decision driving presence assures issues are assessed and being managed. Case managers combat unconscious bias by assuring the care team and clinic form therapeutic relationships based on a patient’s beliefs and values. We work with employers to repair relationships, clear the air, and facilitate early RTW. Acknowledgement of each person’s different views, goals, accountability and acceptance of responsibility is vital. We must all practice empathy or the patient may not engage, not progress, or even reject the plan of care or provider. Nurses must use professionalism, advocacy, communication, collaboration, and education to raise awareness of patient needs. In turn your injured employees will receive optimal care and be responsive, informed and able to progress without resentments or feeling of inequality.
References: Nursing 2016 November Vol.46, No. 11