Implicit vs Explicit Bias in Healthcare: A Crash Course

Implicit vs Explicit Bias in Healthcare: A Crash Course Posted By:
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We all have it—bias, that is. It affects how we interact with others and our relationships, including our ability to develop them. Having bias is not necessarily good or bad; it is how we are wired as human beings.  

Implicit bias comprises the beliefs we house in our subconscious and, therefore, we are not aware we have them. Yet they are reflected in every decision we make, as well as our behavior toward others.

Explicit bias is known as stigma: the attitudes and stereotypical beliefs we may have about a certain group or population of people. Unlike implicit bias, stigma is our conscious motivation to discriminate and marginalize others whom we perceive as unfavored. 

We probably have all been victims of another person’s bias at one time or another. And, I am sure, we can all recall the experience as likely being painful and unjust. So how do we, as healthcare professionals, do better to prevent our implicit bias from creating a stigma that directly affects health outcomes?

First, we start by admitting we have them. I invite you to take at least one test from Harvard University’s Project Implicit (there are 14 different categories). These tests are scientifically valid, and I bet you will be surprised about the results!

Then, once you have determined what bias(es) you have, you can begin the necessary work to address them—for example, how implicit bias and stigma affect those with obesity. Until we, as a society, become awakened to how we really feel about those with obesity, we will not be able to take the appropriate steps to properly address it.


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Filed under: Miscellaneous , Practice Management/Career , NPs & PAs

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