"You need a diverse staff," Fenwick says. "That's not to say you can't achieve incredible things with a staff that is not as reflective of the community as it could be. But with a diverse staff you have this intuitive understanding of those you are treating."
Indiana University Health and flagship University Hospital – Indianapolis has received national recognition for its efforts to improve diversity among its 30,000 employees. Steven L. Jones, the health system's executive director for Talent Management and Diversity, says the patient population is about 30% minority and the workforce is about 23% minority.
"When you think about the hospital experience it can be overwhelming, so it is our contention that we need to make that patient experience as comfortable as possible," Jones says. "We want to provide patient-centered care and part of that is providing that patient with an environment where they see people who look like them. I believe just like we tend to gravitate toward people who look and talk like us, the same thing occurs for patients in their families when they come to the hospital."
In this era when skilled clinicians are hard to find, most hospitals can't realistically be expected to have a workforce that mirrors their changing patient populations. If that is the case, Jones says it's important to train existing staff for the cultural differences they may encounter.