As healthcare professionals, we care for patients from many diverse backgrounds and experiences. The way we relate to patients and families may need to be modified to account for these differences. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine addressed the need to enhance diversity of the healthcare workforce to permit better communication with patients and greater patient-centered care around healthcare decision-making.1,2
Defining diversity is complex because it has different connotations based on personal experiences. Not surprisingly, there is a generational divide in defining diversity and inclusion. For those born before 1980, diversity and inclusion are often interpreted as representation and fairness, while those born after 1980 describe diversity as “a variety of cultures and prospectives working together to solve problems.”3
In early 2017, the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The charges of the committee are to 1) analyze diversity data from SCCM committees, work groups, leadership, faculty, and authors; 2) work with these groups to raise awareness of the benefits of increased diversity; 3) encourage underrepresented populations to participate in SCCM activities and mentor them in this process; 4) identify opportunities for increasing SCCM’s diversity profile; and 5) promote awareness that SCCM values and seeks diversity and inclusion practices within the critical care profession and within the SCCM organization.
Before the committee was created, a report to Council in April 2016 mentioned that 12.4% of members’ ethnicities were known as well as 61.4% of members’ genders. Since the inception of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, SCCM’s membership website has been updated to allow for volunteer collection of demographic data such as race/ethnicity and gender.
Achieving diversity is a worthwhile but challenging endeavor. SCCM’s organizational strategy values a commitment to diversity. While data on demographic diversity in critical care organizations worldwide are scarce, SCCM has the highest representation of women in leadership roles.4 In 2017, 50% of SCCM’s 20-member Council were women. Since 2000, 41% of SCCM’s presidents have been women. The ethnicity breakdown of the 2018 Council is 75% white, 15% Asian, 5% Hispanic, and 5% black. Data are lacking for faculty of the annual Critical Care Congress because data collection did not start until the summer of 2017 and not all faculty provided the information. Between 2015 and 2017, Congress faculty were approximately 30% female—among the highest of all critical care societies worldwide—but there is still much work to be done.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee members and SCCM staff have developed a plan and focused their attention on the first and second charges. In its first year the committee developed the following diversity statement, which was added to SCCM’s website: “SCCM values and seeks diversity and inclusive practices within the critical care profession and within the SCCM organization. SCCM promotes involvement, innovation, and expanded access to leadership opportunities that maximize engagement across diverse populations. SCCM will provide leadership and will commit time and resources to accomplish this objective, focusing particularly on increasing participation of underrepresented groups. Securing the highest-quality care for all critically ill and injured patients is our goal.” The committee also worked on programming for the 2018 and 2019 Congresses. As of December 2018, ethnicity is known for 30.3% of members, gender for 38.8%, and age for 57.2%. More importantly, these demographics are being used by SCCM to help select committee members and by the programming committee to select Congress faculty.
Help SCCM increase the capture of demographics by logging in to mysccm.org and clicking on Update Profile on the left-hand side of the page. Working together we can advance the initiatives.
- West MA, Hwang S, Maier RV, et al. Ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion in academic surgery: an American Surgical Association white paper. Ann Surg. 2018 Sep;268(3):403-407.
- Institute of Medicine. In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health-Care Workforce. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2004:chap 4.
- Jacobs S. Pivot Point: Reshaping Your Business When It Matters Most. Washington, DC: Association Management Press; 2018:chap 2.
- Venkatesh B, Mehta S, Angus DC, et al. Women in intensive care study: a preliminary assessment of international data on female representation in the ICU physician workforce, leadership and academic positions. Crit Care. 2018 Sep 10;22(1):211.