10 May Bringing More Diversity, Equality and Inclusion into Your Optometry Practice
As a woman, one of the most important things to me is to make sure my practice reflects an inclusive atmosphere that allows patients and doctors to connect easily. Especially so that my team feels at home, helping patients feel right at home too, in an office founded on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
For the most positive environment, it’s important for any team to feel equally included and well-represented. This calls for clear policies and open discussions, which then foster transparent relationships with your own patients. It’s extremely important that your team itself is inclusive at its very core, otherwise your patients might not feel very home.
How diverse is Optometry as a field? Unfortunately, not very.
- 74% of practicing ODs are White.
- 15% are Asian.
- 6% are African American/Black.
- 5% are Hispanic/Latino practitioners.
So already, it’s a bit difficult to ensure the most diverse environment, but there are some key actions you can take to make sure your practice is more inclusive and easygoing for both your patients and employees.
3 Key Principles for a More Diverse Practice
Coming from a family of Optometrists, one of my favorite things to do is to inspire others to also join the field, regardless of background! If anything, improving those statistics have been long overdue, but it’s just the first step toward a more inclusive office that practices consistent equity.
#1: Have Multilingual Team Members
We live in a country with two national languages, so there’s no reason to NOT have someone who speaks Spanish on your team. You may also live in an area that has a heavy influence of another language, so always consider any bilingual candidates, especially those who may also be of another race.
Diversifying your staff also helps open up more channels of communication for your patients, allowing them to feel right at home, and smooth sail through their appointment. They will leave remembering an office that took the time to acknowledge and correct for any communication barriers.
#2: Create an Open, Inclusive Atmosphere
Diversity is not enough to create an open atmosphere; it must be taken one step further, towards inclusivity. Ensure a practice that does not discriminate against any demographic, and makes everyone feel included:
- Sexual Orientation
How can you boost your inclusivity? Make sure your employees understand they are safe, heard, and respected where they work. How they feel at work, will shine through to patients. Inclusivity is the backbone for maintaining a stable and diverse office.
If employees feel as though they have to hide part of who they are when at work, this can negatively affect your employee retention and turnover rates, as well as potentially affect patient relationships.
#3: Eradicate Fear with Empathy and Communication
This one is simple: CARE and COMMUNICATE.
Eradicating fear from your office involves tapping into your empathy and making sure to listen to your employees. Care enough to be vocal and transparent about your anti-discriminatory policies. Let patients see it too, so that they can be a part of the inclusivity.
Encouraging an environment open to different ideas will maintain inclusivity for the long-run. When beliefs are challenged, it opens the opportunity for others to express and bring their magic to the table. Without this, how else can the office be inclusive?