group of happy doctors meeting at hospital office

Have you ever noticed yourself making the assumption that an experience you had was similar to someone else’s? It happens to all of us. It’s easy to see certain aspects of life as clear-cut and assume everyone has had a similar experience, but it’s often not the case.

What are implicit biases? Unconscious or implicit biases are one of the main reasons we all walk in different worlds. We all hold unconscious attitudes that can cause us to act in unintentional, yet discriminatory ways. These attitudes are often referred to as implicit bias.

In a healthcare setting, implicit bias can be extremely harmful. If left unchecked, it can contribute to racial, ethnic, and other disparities that impact the quality of patient care and, most importantly, patient outcomes. Let’s discuss California’s newly mandated implicit bias training for nursing students and new graduates and how it will lead to better health outcomes.

What Is California’s Bill AB-1407?

AB-1407 is a new bill that requires nursing schools and programs to include implicit bias training as a core part of their curriculum. The bill, which goes into effect in January 2023, also requires hospitals to implement an evidence-based program on implicit bias as part of their training for new graduates. AB-1407 acknowledges that awareness and education are the first steps towards eliminating implicit bias.

AB-1407 aims to educate future healthcare workforces to recognize the impact of implicit bias on the patients they serve. Finally, this bill also amends the existing law which exempts continuing education (CE) for newly registered nurse licensees. Within the first two years of obtaining their license, nurses in California are now required to complete implicit bias training.

Implicit bias training bills have been enacted for other sectors in California, including:

  • AB-242 requires all judiciary employees to undergo implicit bias training every two years
  • AB-241 requires implicit bias training for physicians and surgeons
  • SB-464 requires implicit bias training for perinatal care staff at hospitals

How Implicit Bias Impacts Health Outcomes

Implicit biases aren’t limited to race and ethnicity. In fact, they impact health outcomes in many different areas, including weight, sexual orientation and gender identity, and others. Implicit bias researchers have found that disparities in treatment and patient outcomes are often the result of subconscious attitudes and beliefs held by clinicians rather than overt racism, sexism, or bigotry.

Even though these attitudes and beliefs may not be explicit, they still play a major role in patient outcomes and contribute to a decrease in patient care quality. There is considerable evidence that such attitudes can influence a clinician’s perception, judgment, behavior, and decision-making. All of these areas can influence the quality of care they provide. Experiences with low-quality treatment due to race, ethnicity, weight, or other factors can cause patients undue stress and result in care avoidance, mistrust of providers, and poor treatment adherence.

In July 2021, Urban Institute found that Black patients are significantly more likely to suffer from dangerous bleeding, infections, and other problematic surgery-related outcomes than white patients who have received care in the same hospital. This is just one example of the many ways implicit biases can be extremely harmful and have severe consequences for patient outcomes.

How Can Unconscious Bias Training Improve Health Outcomes?

Implicit bias isn’t the same as outright prejudice. The more clinicians know about themselves and how they make decisions, the more likely it is that this awareness will lead to improved health outcomes. Unconscious bias training also provides the real-world knowledge and strategies needed to live out core values and treat patients fairly and without bias.

Our eLearning course, Understand and Prevent Unintended and Implicit Biases- For Nurses, shares tools and valuable resources for preventing bias from impacting your behavior and improving patient care and overall job satisfaction. Because it requires implicit bias training, we believe that AB-1407 will help nurses throughout California continue to provide high-quality care to patients from a diverse array of backgrounds.

Protect Yourself and Your Patients from Bias with Diversity Science

At Diversity Science, it’s our mission to translate scientific research into practical strategies that advance DEI for individuals, organizations, and the people they serve. We specialize in healthcare, which is why we have developed several eLearning courses specific to those in healthcare settings. Each of our courses meets the requirements of AB-1407, AB-241, and AB-242.

Looking to prevent bias? Contact Diversity Science to learn more about our solutions for individual healthcare providers and healthcare systems.

Looking to build a more inclusive workplace? We’re here to help.