How to Be a More Inclusive OncoPT: Breaking Down Misconceptions and Taking Action

Over the past several decades, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in cancer survivorship, meaning more patients are living longer after their cancer diagnosis.  However, this increase is not seen equally across all patient groups.  

For example, Black & African American patients continue to experience the highest rates of cancer mortality compared to other racial groups in the US.  And this doesn’t even begin to cover the extreme differences in insurance coverage, affordable access to care, & inclusion in cancer research trials.

In the ever-evolving world of healthcare, it is essential for OncoPTs to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion within their practice. But we can’t stop there.

In this podcast episode, we dive deep into the topic of becoming a more inclusive OncoPT with Dr. Patrick Ford, challenging common misconceptions and providing actionable steps for clinicians to take today. 

Misconceptions about DEI-B within OncoPT Practice

One of the most prevalent misconceptions that PTs may have about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI-B) is the assumption that it doesn’t directly impact patient outcomes. However, the truth is that diverse and inclusive healthcare environments foster trust, improve communication, and enhance treatment adherence. 

Patients who feel seen, heard, and understood are more likely to actively engage in their rehabilitation journey and experience better clinical outcomes. It’s important for you to recognize that DEI-B is not just a social or ethical responsibility; it directly influences the quality of care you provide.

Three Action Steps to Become a More Inclusive OncoPT

Educate Yourself

To become a more inclusive and equitable clinician, it is crucial to continuously educate yourself about the unique needs, challenges, and experiences of diverse patient populations, including those affected by cancer. Seek out resources, literature, webinars, and workshops that delve into cultural competency, health disparities, and the intersectionality of identities. By expanding your knowledge base, you’ll be better equipped to address the diverse needs of your patients and tailor your interventions accordingly.

Cultivate a Safe and Welcoming Environment

Creating a safe and welcoming environment is paramount in fostering inclusivity. Start by actively listening to your patients, acknowledging their concerns, and validating their experiences. Embrace open and honest communication, encouraging patients to share their thoughts, emotions, and any cultural or social factors that may impact their rehabilitation journey. Ensure that your clinic or practice is physically accessible and culturally sensitive. Display inclusive signage and provide resources in multiple languages to cater to diverse patient populations. Small changes can make a significant difference in how patients perceive their care experience.

Engage in Continuous Self-Reflection and Improvement

Becoming a more inclusive OncoPT is an ongoing process that requires self-reflection and a commitment to growth. Regularly assess your biases, assumptions, and prejudices that may inadvertently influence your clinical decision-making. Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, embrace diversity, and actively seek out opportunities to collaborate with professionals from different backgrounds. Engaging in dialogue with colleagues, attending conferences, and joining professional networks focused on diversity and inclusion can further expand your perspectives and enhance your cultural competence.

As OncoPTs, it is crucial for us to recognize the impact that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging have on the overall well-being and outcomes of our patients. By challenging common misconceptions and taking concrete action steps, we can cultivate a more inclusive practice environment and deliver patient-centered care. Remember, it starts with educating ourselves, fostering a safe and welcoming environment, and continuously reflecting on our biases. Let’s embrace diversity and actively work towards a more equitable future for all those affected by cancer.

Until next time, this is Elise with TheOncoPT. And remember: you are exactly the physical therapist that your patients with cancer need. So let’s get to work.

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Check out resources Dr. Ford mentioned on the podcast:

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