Embracing diversity and disrupting stereotypes in your skin health clinic.
Skin health professionals can play an important role in embracing diversity, disrupting stereotypes, and increasing the accessibility of affirming health services.
We can all agree that we want ourselves as well as our employees and clients to feel seen, to be supported to express their authentic selves, and to love the skin they are in.
We caught up with Jennifer Byrne (Dermal Clinician, Chair of the Australian Society of Dermal Clinicians (ASDC), and Clinical Coordinator for Dermal Science in the College of Health & Biomedicine at Victoria University, Melbourne) to discuss ways to introduce or improve means of diversity within your business, along with the benefits it can provide. She shares with us below.
Jennifer: To embrace a truly inclusive business model and client experience, this does require a 360 view from top to bottom, front to back, inside, and out. Below are areas to consider in how you can create a more inclusive business and client journey.
It may seem daunting if you haven’t had the space and time to review and reflect on your current practices. However, it’s a great starting point to continually reflect on our own experiences, preconceived ideas, and beliefs, with the desire to become more educated and apply situations with a person-centered approach or focus.
Reflect on how accessible, supportive, and welcoming your business is regarding:
- Diversity of age
- Diversity of cultural and religious beliefs
- Diversity of gender
- Diversity of language and communication styles
- People with vision, hearing, speech, or mobility impairment
- Neutrality and diversity in skin colour, body shape and size
Leadership & Engagement – Business Owners and Managers
As business owners and managers, reflect to identify gaps and solutions so that you are ready to champion and implement change.
Develop a plan to create a more welcoming and inclusive service that supports diversity and accessibility to evidence-based skin health services.
- Review and implement policies to support diversity and inclusivity in your employees and clients. For example, consider if you have diversity and inclusion or anti-discrimination policies, restroom policies, or family/support person policies.
- Implement training to develop competence and safety as managers supporting staff in the workplace and providers of health services to all people.
- Consider partnerships and engagement with organisations that can assist with support networks, education, and resources.
- Consider how you can increase accessibility and affordability of skin health services for those that may be experiencing hardship.
Your first impression
The first point of contact includes your online presence such as your social media, website, and phone queries.
Do all these avenues communicate that you are a workplace or business that supports and encourages diversity and inclusion?
- Do you use images that show diversity, inclusivity, and allyship?
- Do you have employees that reflect a commitment to promoting diversity, inclusion, and allyship? This can include if your staff speak multiple languages that you put in their biography with their qualifications and affiliations.
If they have a special interest area that may cater to different people with different needs and concerns, you may consider listing that as well.
- Are you developing and providing educational or promotional resources that can cater to learning and communication styles, preferences, or needs and are representative of the diversity of our population?
- Are you developing and providing services that are inclusive and can be tailored to the diversity of needs and preferences within our population?
- Is the language and communication style used both written and verbal accessible, person-centred, and inclusive to avoid stereotyping?
- Is the design, layout, and décor of your clinic accessible, welcoming, and inclusive?
The client experience
As a clinician in the room, the best starting point is to approach everything with a person-centred focus.
Sometimes when we begin this process of self-reflection, we expose areas where we have been stereotyping or making assumptions based on limited understanding or preconceived ideas.
Start by acknowledging that changing ways of doing things can be challenging and will take time.
Some areas to reflect on, to create safe and therapeutic client relationships to be welcoming to all people include our documentation and client interactions.
Forms and documentation are often an area to reflect and reframe questions about titles, pronouns, preferred and legal names, ethnicity, gender, marital and family status, or history.
Avoid asking questions that are not required and only obtain information that is required for legal and clinical needs.
Some historical lines of questioning in the skin health sector can make assumptions based on stereotyping. It is better practice to try and ask questions in a way that provides the information you ‘actually’ need to know to make clinical decisions and ensure procedures and ongoing care plans are safe.
These changes also provide clients the opportunity to receive care in a way that allows them to be their authentic selves.
Educate yourself so that you can develop confidence in being able to adapt your language, communication styles, behaviours, and treatment plans to respect different people’s relationships with themselves and others, their bodies, time, and place as well as how they want to be communicated and interacted with.
If you feel that it’s impossible to be all things, to all people, the great thing about diversity in the workplace and networking with other businesses and organisations is, if you aren’t a good fit for one reason or another you can assist with finding the right fit; and this may come back to you as well for the same reasons.
Benefits of diverse and inclusive workplaces
Having more diverse and inclusive workplaces and businesses that are reflective of our population in Australia can have benefits to your business as well.
- Draw talent from a larger pool of people who may consider you as a good choice for employment.
- Decision-making that considers different perspectives can be more effective and encourage greater buy-in.
- Work environments that allow employees to be more authentic can encourage productivity and loyalty as well as encourage two-way communication.
- Attract clients from a larger demographic who consider you a safe space that will respect their needs.
- You may be able to diversify your services and funding sources.
The skin health sector can have a powerful impact on disrupting stereotypes and increasing accessibility to affirming therapies that allow our clients to express and feel more like their authentic selves. Essentially this is what ‘Skinpowerment’ and loving the skin you are in is all about.
We see all our clients as unique individuals with rich and diverse experiences, backgrounds, needs, desires, and abilities. Diversity and inclusive practices through policy, procedure, documentation, and communication practices galvanise our commitment to supporting and standardising expectations for our service provision, and in turn, elevating our businesses and collectively our sector.
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