Clinical nurse specialist explains the meaning and impact of implicit bias on patients


A recent survey by nurses and APAs found that many healthcare professionals may be blind to their own implicit biases.

In an interview with Oncology Nursing News, Kathy Burns, MS, APRN-CNS, AGCNS-BC, clinical nurse specialist in benign hematology at James Cancer Hospital and co-author of the study, explains the meaning of implicit bias and how nurses in oncology can improve interactions with patients by becoming more aware of how the problem affects them.

“I think it’s very important to understand: what is an implicit bias? It has many elements from a scientific point of view, but from a basic point of view it is unconscious, it’s unintentional. And that’s one way our brains have evolved over many years for survival status to deal with our environment, ”Burns said. “So consciously, as health care providers, [through] in medical school and nursing school we are taught not to be prejudiced, we are not taught to treat all people equally. And I think we are consciously going in with this with great intentions. But it is the unconscious, the unintentional interactions that a patient can pick up during an interview, communication process, [or] in an assessment.

“Understanding everything that’s going on in the world – pandemic, opioid crisis, all of those things – how does that change our perception of the patients who care for them? How has it all changed them and their needs? How? ‘Or’ What [can we] interact, reach out. and be able to meet their needs, from that point of view as well? She added.


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