How to Avoid Stereotyping Patients?
Stereotypes exist for a reason. There’s a reason that certain behaviors and characteristics are associated with certain groups of people.
However, does that mean every person who falls into one of these categories acts or thinks the same way? Of course not.
Treating your patients or co-workers like they’re the same as everyone else who shares their gender, race, occupation or age is a recipe for disaster. Here are some tips to avoid doing so:
Understand Where Stereotypes Come From
Stereotypes build up over time when there’s repeated exposure to certain behaviors, characteristics or circumstances.
If you work with people in a certain profession, you might notice they share certain qualities. It’s natural to draw conclusions based on those observations, even though they might be misguided.
If you’re working with someone different from you, try to remember that he or she might have different traits than stereotyped groups because of unique experiences and not because he or she is “the same.”
Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
When passing judgment on others, we often rely on what we see – physical features and behaviors.
We may assume that someone who looks a certain way is friendly, while another person who looks different is unfriendly.
But this isn’t always the case. Everyone has different likes and dislikes, cultures and beliefs that affect their attitudes and behaviors toward one another.
When you meet new people, don’t make assumptions about them based on how they look or act. Instead, get to know them before making any judgments.
Ask questions to find out more about their interests and personalities. You’ll find that people are much more than their physical appearances suggest!
Avoid Using Assumptions to Describe Someone in your Care
If you’re describing a patient who is in your care, avoid labeling them as “difficult.” Instead of saying “she has Alzheimer’s,” say “she has moderate dementia.” You’ll show respect for the patient by avoiding generalizations.
Recognize your Assumptions
You may be making some assumptions about someone without even knowing it. Ask yourself: “Is there something I’m assuming about this person?” If so, try to identify the assumption and then decide whether it is valid or not.
You might find that your original assumption was wrong — or that it’s not as big an issue as you thought it was.
Talk Less and Listen More
One of the most important things you can do when you’re seeing a new patient is to talk as little as possible and listen as much as possible.
Some patients will be very forthcoming with their medical history, but some will be rather guarded. Some patients may have trouble expressing themselves, while others may have trouble hearing.
A good rule of thumb is to be careful about making assumptions about what your patient is saying or asking.
When you are talking to the patient, avoid using phrases like “you guys” or “you all.” These terms tend to make people uncomfortable since they are often used in contexts where one person is speaking for a group.
If you’re not sure whether your patient is male or female, use gender-neutral terms like “people,” “folks,” or “individuals.”
Be Cognizant of How your Words Can Affect Co-workers
For instance, if someone asks you to bring them a cup of coffee, don’t reply with something like “I’ll get it for you,” because that might sound condescending.
Choose your words carefully so that your co-workers know that you respect them and think of them as equals.
Take Time to Understand Both Your Patients and Co-workers
To avoid stereotyping people, you need to make sure you understand them as individuals. Get to know your patients. Learn about their lives and their interests, and what their concerns are.
This will help you communicate with them more effectively and make better decisions about their care. And if it turns out that a patient or co-worker is very different from the way you think, give them the benefit of the doubt.
We tend to stereotype because the human brain is constantly trying to make sense of the world around us by categorizing objects and people into familiar groups.
However, this tendency can interfere with our ability to be empathetic toward other people or understand their individual needs. Of course, this is something you don’t want to do as a health practitioner.
With the aforementioned tips, it should be easier for you to avoid the same.