“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” ― Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost
Racism. Sexism. Ageism. Religionism. Culturalism. These represent only a handful of the many biases each of us has to one extent or another. Recognizing our biases and examining the impact they have on our interaction with patients is important for all healthcare providers, but especially so for military physicians who care for a community composed of people from nearly every race, religion, gender, age, and from a wide array of cultures. Reflecting on how these biases have impacted the way we have interacted with and treated our patients in the past is the key first step towards becoming more self-aware of our biases and mitigating their negative implications.
Assignment (submit papers in Sakai under the Assignments Tab):
Reflect on one or more encounter(s) during your core clerkships in which you recognized that you had a bias towards or against one or more of your patients for whom you cared and consider how it impacted the way you interacted with and treated your patient. Your bias might be for or against those who are old or young, of a given race, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, or gender, among others.
I recognize that discussing some biases have become taboo in our society – perhaps chief among these are racism, sexism, and ageism. This is precisely why I wanted to create this opportunity for personal exploration about biases. I encourage you to be courageous when deciding the bias about which you write. Writing about a bias that you know you have and are comfortable discussing may not offer you as much personal insight as writing about the bias that makes you uncomfortable. In your writing:
- Entitle your essay, “My own racist/ageist/sexist/etc. bias”
- Describe the situation in which this bias impacted your interaction with a patient or member of the healthcare team. Set the stage and be specific to help the reader more fully appreciate the specifics of the situation.
- Consider and describe the source(s) of your bias. This may include
- your own experiences
- how you perceive the trait/characteristic against which you have a bias to be viewed in the family/community in which you grew up
- how you perceive the trait/characteristic against which you have a bias to be viewed in the medical and/or military community
- your beliefs and values
- Describe whether you first identified this bias in the moment (while you were interacting with your patient) or after the moment, what brought it to your attention, and what you did in response to this awareness.
- Analyze how your bias impacted your actions, including its impact on patient communication and patient care and how it might impact your actions in the future.
- Develop a plan for dealing with this and other biases as you become aware of them in the future.
By the end of the small group session on “Bias”, students will demonstrate the ability to:
- Identify and describe in writing one or more situations in which they recognized their own bias towards or against one or more patients for whom they cared during their core clerkship rotations.
- Explore the sources of this bias.
- Examine the impact this bias had on the way they interacted with and cared for this and other patients during the core clerkship rotations.
- Develop a specific, actionable plan that you can implement between writing your paper and the small group to better cope with this bias in the future.