The lives of our patients are affected by bias. It plays a role in how we interpret important clues in the history and physical examination of patients, how we interpret tests, and how we convey information. If your unconscious bias is such that you downplay or discount certain facts or findings, this has the potential to negatively affect patient care (eg, missed myocardial infarction, reduced analgesic treatment, longer wait times, etc.).
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 36 – No 04 – April 2017
What can we do? First, recognize and accept that we have biases. They help us to function and serve to protect us. It is a necessary part of who we are as humans. Reflect on our biases, developing the capacity to shine the light on ourselves. Research has demonstrated that bias blind spots (the ability to “rationally” explain away our biases) are greater in those with higher cognitive ability (eg, physicians). Realize that this is not easy to deal with. Explore the awkwardness and discomfort that comes along with examining our biases and how it affects our daily interactions. Engage with people who we consider “others” and learn and gain experience from them. Finally, get feedback. Ask a trusted person, “How did I do?” This is how we learned our profession. We became educated, sought guidance and feedback, and practiced it over and over.
Dr. Lopez is professor and vice chair in the department of emergency medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Thomas Jefferson University, and associate dean for diversity and community engagement at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, all in Philadelphia.
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