Nicole M. Patterson: A Call for ‘Acquired’ Diversity

What is diversity?

1) the state of having people of races and genders of from different cultures within a group or organization, 2) the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc. The first definition described for intents and purposes of this post will be referred to as traditional diversity. Inclusion is the direct solution to traditional diversity issues within any organizational structure. Inclusion, however, is not the easiest to reach for a myriad of reasons. One way of arriving at a solution is by viewing diversity from the “acquired” angle. Acquired diversity refers to different mindsets and ways of thinking, a result of varying experiences. That’s a worthy concept to embrace for clinical engineering service model.

Fortunately, there are drivers of acquired diversity embedded in our field. These include various educational opportunities as well as mentorship and outreach programs at AAMI and other organizations. One example of an outreach program was AAMI’s recent essay contest asking high school students to describe the future of healthcare technology. The Veterans Administration is also reaching out to students. Recently, the VA hosted a Twitter chat for students and recent grads, highlighting internship programs, as well as the MyCareer@VA website that helps individuals grow and navigate their careers.

Healthcare technology management must diversify its workforce to best reflect, not only the advancing technology, but the multifaceted customer base and patient expectations of technological innovations. Like any engineering discipline, biomedical engineering is currently male dominant. However, that is changing. For example, within the last few years at the Veterans Health Administration, the number of women in leadership roles is increasing within the clinical engineering realm.

Educating our field on the importance of acquired diversity would potentially remedy the “traditional diversity” complex. Having professionals with more varied backgrounds in the field will contribute to fostering an environment of new ideas or innovations in our clinical engineering community.

As a viable asset to the global community of clinical engineering, you should take the time to reflect on what you can do to promote and support diversity for your team and your organization.

Nicole Patterson is a biomedical engineer with the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, IN.

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