Empathy vital in ending racism in healthcare for immigrants in the US-Study

Several earlier studies have indicated that immigrants in the US, especially blacks, face bias in getting treatment in the US health care system as compared to their US-born white counterparts.

But the new study published online last month in ‘PAIN’, a medical journal, states that its empathy that was found to be a strong but an unconscious factor responsible for racism in pain treatment in the research.

According to lead author of the study, Brian Drwecki, who is currently pursuing graduation in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, nurses and college students did their best to reduce the pain of the patients of their own race in the study.

However, this does not mean that the health care workers in the US are, in any way, racist in their attitude, Drwecki clarified.

That’s because far from being a racist act, the health care professionals’ behavior was not meant to be biased, Drwecki added.

Racism is, on the other hand, a conscious act of hatred, he stated.

During the study, the health care professionals including nurses were shown videos of patients having shoulder pain. The US health care professionals prescribed treatment to the patients after studying their pain reflected in their faces.

The research showed that white health care professionals showed a favor for pain treatment of white patients and had a higher scoring in the tests for measurement of empathy felt by them for patients receiving preferential treatment.

And the study asserted a simple formula for extending same empathy level among health care participants for all patients irrespective of their races.

The participating students and nurses were asked to put themselves in the shoes of the patients in order to analyze the affect of pain on the life of the concerned person. And this really worked wonders, the study showed.

A simple shift in the perspective of the participating medical students resulted in a significant reduction of disparity in pain treatment by nearly 98 percent while for the nurses; the same perspective resulted in a reduction of 55 percent in the disparity level for pain treatment.

The study reinstates the fact that empathy can be increased by humans with effort.