Health Inequities: How to Make an Impact in Your Practice
April 14, 2021
Dr. Rumay Alexander, Ed, RN, FAAN, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Nursing who has served as the Director of the School of Nursing's Office of Inclusive Excellence, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion and the Chief Diversity Officer for UNC-Chapel Hill, is encouraged to see the increased awareness, but she wants to ensure that the resulting actions are long-lasting to provide the greatest impact.
Alexander will be speaking on health equity at Periop Reset on Saturday, April 24. She stresses that as perioperative professionals we need to be willing to acknowledge how social determinants of health, such as inequities in housing, education, and employment opportunities, impact team members and patients.
“When every individual has access to the resources they need to achieve optimum health, they’re able to give their best to their family, their work, and their community,” says Alexander.
She also believes that to have the greatest impact it’s important to understand the differences between fairness and equity. Alexander explains “Equity is how you were set up to participate in the world, and then fairness is the next layer. If you start with the premise of “treating everyone the same,” that’s not really treating everyone fairly because it assumes that everyone has access to the same baseline.”
So, what can you do to help achieve health equity?
Alexander encourages perioperative professionals to look at access and resource allocation, “We need to be curious and honest about who the current system is benefitting and who it is marginalizing; acknowledge who the rules reward and who they do not work for.”
She emphasizes that we must inspire ourselves and our colleagues to be more curious to achieve lasting changes in health equity. We can do this by asking ourselves the right questions.
Alexander suggests posing the following questions to help us move forward:
- Why am I thinking this way about certain groups of people?
- How can I maximize my curiosity and minimize “certainty”, so I’m more open to change?
- How can I become more intentional to better acknowledge and understand my biases?
To ensure your actions are long-lasting and will make an impact on yourself, your team, your patients, and your community, Alexander recommends educating yourself on how to address the structural issues that underlie the inequities in healthcare, “I think we’re beginning to understand that equity is tied to fairness, trust, accountability, being curious and asking questions rather than assuming. It must be a part of our discussions at all levels.”
Hit your personal and professional reset button. Register today for Periop Reset, a virtual one-day event where we’ll reflect on the past year and discuss where we go from here.