Recently Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock implemented a new bias training program for its staff. It is uncertain whether Covenant is requiring the training as a condition of employment.
Do No Harm, a group whose mission is to “[p]rotect healthcare from a radical, divisive, and discriminatory ideology,” received screenshots of the training from a hospital employee. The employee did not wish to be identified for fear of retribution by the hospital.
The program includes training on implicit bias and microaggressions, and encourages staff to join in caregiver resource groups “based on shared characteristics or life experiences.”
Covenant is owned by Providence, a West Coast health group that is committed to “health equity” to address what they call “long-standing inequities and systemic injustices [that] exist in the world.”
Laura Morgan, a program manager for Do No Harm and veteran nurse who lost her job at Baylor Scott & White over implicit bias training, finds Covenant’s training pretty typical for what the group is seeing in hospitals.
However, Morgan found statements in the training such as, “We are reprogramming our brain to pause and think differently about people and situations,” particularly troubling.
“We want health care employees to be thinking about treating the patient, not how they might have an unconscious bias,” Morgan noted.
Dr. Sally Satel, a practicing psychiatrist, lecturer at the Yale University School of Medicine, and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, examines mental health policy as well as political trends in medicine. She has been watching the growth of political correctness and social justice in the medical field for over two decades.
Implicit bias training is often linked to the administration of the Implicit Association Test, which has largely been debunked for its capacity to predict anything, let alone offer helpful guidance on implementing change, Satel told The Texan.
Instead, she asserted, these diversity training sessions can foment resentment and create hypervigilance among colleagues.
Morgan agrees. When working as part of a team in a stressful situation at the end of a 12-hour shift, trust and teamwork are key. “This is counterproductive to being an effective health care team,” she said.
The training also included information about microaggressions, which Morgan believes are defined so broadly that the definition can be easily manipulated.
The definition given is “[a] term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights toward and insults toward any group.”
Examples given include, “Do you speak English?” and “Thanks, sweetheart. Can I talk to your manager?”
Covenant is also implementing “Caregiver Resource Groups (CRG),” voluntary employee-led groups that are “designed to create a more inclusive workplace.” The groups are segregated by race, ethnicity, and sexual identity. At its Southern California campus, there is a Black CRG, a Latinx CRG, an Asian American Pacific Islander CRG, and an LGBTQ+ CRG.
Morgan sees these as divisive, identity-based segregation.
Neither Morgan nor Satel believe popular diversity training sessions are helpful in the health care delivered to patients.
“There are so many practical things we could do and offer to those underserved,” Satel said. “This is a distraction.”
Betsy Levy Paluck, a professor of psychology and public and international affairs at Princeton University, recently wrote an article in the Washington Post about the effectiveness of these programs.
In answer to the question “Is this training a good idea?” Paluck, who did a meta-analysis of effectiveness studies, said the answer is, “We don’t know.”
Covenant Medical Center, which describes itself as a faith-based institution, defended its practice in a statement sent to The Texan.
“Our implicit bias training is intended to foster a culture in which every patient and employee is treated with compassion and respect, regardless of their age, religion, ethnicity, gender, or any other individual characteristic.”
The center’s spokesman did not respond to questions about whether it has measured any improved health outcomes as a result of implementing such diversity training programs.
According to Satel in an article she wrote titled “What is Happening to My Profession?” the social justice and diversity mindset is having the opposite effect.
“The implementation of the social justice agenda has constrained collegial discourse, challenged the maintenance of standards, and suppressed honest analysis of certain problems,” she wrote.
“Physicians cannot — and should not — ’dismantle racism and intersecting systems of oppression’ as part of their clinical mission. To imply that such activity falls within our scope of expertise is to abuse our authority,” Satel wrote. “Doctors can reasonably lobby for policies directly promoting health, such as better coverage for patient care or more services, but we will lose our focus and dilute our efforts to care for patients if we seek to address the perceived root causes of health disparities.”
Do No Harm has a tip sheet on its website for health care employees who are required to take implicit bias training. Suggestions include asking if the training is required, asking for an alternate accommodation, and asking direct questions that may draw attention to the divisive nature of the training.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.