Tips on How to Avoid Stereotyping Patients and Co-workers

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, remember that he or she might have other 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, please don’t make assumptions about them based on how they look or act. Instead, please 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

When describing a patient, focus on specific behaviors or needs rather than labeling. For clarity and accuracy, say ‘She is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease’ instead of euphemizing medical conditions.

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 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.

Use inclusive language that respects individual identities. Instead of ‘you guys,’ use ‘you’ when speaking directly to an individual or ‘everyone’ for groups to maintain professionalism and ensure comfort.

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

Respond to requests with courtesy, showing willingness to assist. If asked for a task like fetching coffee, responding with ‘Sure, I’ll be happy to help’ maintains respect and professionalism.

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 understand them as individuals. Get to know your patients. Learn about their lives and their interests, and their concerns.

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 how you think, give them the benefit of the doubt.

Final Thoughts

We tend to stereotype because the human brain constantly tries to make sense of the world by categorizing objects and people into familiar groups.

However, this tendency can interfere with our ability to empathize with others or understand their needs. Of course, you don’t want to do this as a health practitioner.

With the tips as mentioned above, it should be easier for you to avoid the same.

See Also

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Current Version
January 13, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 28, 2024
Updated By
Tim Bevelacqua, MN, RN

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