The U.S. population is becoming more diverse each day with important implications for the delivery of quality health care services to diverse patients. It is clear that healthcare professions, including Diagnostic Medical Sonography, should reflect the makeup of the patients they serve for many reasons. The only way that will happen is if a more diverse sonography student body is developed, which will lead to a more diverse group of employed ultrasound technicians.
Tomorrow by the Numbers
There are so many demographic trends going on at once in the U.S. that it would not be a stretch of the imagination to say that a paradigm shift is going on. The trends have enormous implications for the healthcare industry because changing demographics means there is a need for a system able to meet the unique needs of new population groups. Diversity embraces race, gender, age, ethnicity, and disability.
The face of America is changing as an explosion of diversity and multiculturalism increasingly defines society. In fact, the country is becoming so diverse that the U.S. Census Bureau is struggling to develop new categories that people believe will better define their personal demographics. For example, how does the U.S. Census count a Hispanic who has an African-American father or mother?
Medical professionals have diversity related issues because a person’s genetics are major determinants of health, along with socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and environment. Following are a few of the statistics of importance to the healthcare system:
- International migration is projected to be the main driver of population growth between the years 2027-2038
- The foreign born population, as of the 2010 U.S. Census, was 13 percent of the total population
- Asians were the fastest growing minority group in the years 2013-2016
- All racial and ethnic groups together account for 37 percent of the U.S. population as of June 2014
- Hispanics are the second largest U.S. ethnic group, accounting for 17.1 percent of 2013
- Whites are projected to be a minority group by the year 2043
The healthcare industry is asking itself: What will it take to increase access to health care for everyone given the changing demographics? The answer is: Greater diversity in the higher education student groups today to better prepare for the workforce needs of tomorrow.
Delivering Ultrasound Technology Services to a Diverse Population
The CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography degree program at Lansing Community College issues a student handbook which outlines programs goals for service, education and professionalism. One of the professionalism program goals is to prepare ethically and professionally competent sonographers who can deliver patient-focused services to a diverse population.
There are many advantages to having diverse health professionals serve diverse patients. Culturally skilled sonographers, for example, are more likely to possess the information and knowledge needed for better communication with diverse patients. Diversity among sonographers can also enhance understanding of the special needs of patients who have different backgrounds.
Sonographers who speak Spanish, for example, can converse with Spanish-speaking patients and family members. In Florida, medical centers are interested in hiring health care professionals who can communicate with the rapidly growing Haitian population (a full list of accredited ultrasound schools in Florida in 2017). Ultrasound technicians who have an Asian background are more likely to know and understand cultural based beliefs about medicine or child birth. African-American sonographers often have first-hand knowledge of the diseases or medical conditions commonly afflicting the Black population because of the experiences of family or friends.
It is also believed that increasing diversity among sonographers will also increase access to healthcare. Research concerning health professions in general indicates that ethnic and racial diversity will lead to improved healthcare access and patient satisfaction. Health care professionals are caring people who want to have the greatest impact possible. Those with diverse backgrounds are more likely to be drawn to areas where they believe they can help those with similar backgrounds, thus increasing healthcare access.
To have a more diverse group of sonographers, there must be a more diverse student body. The sonographer programs should reflect the country’s changing demographics. Schools are actively recruiting minority and racially diverse students into sonography programs for the simple reason they are dedicated to producing the most qualified and effective healthcare workers. As the U.S. population continues to become more multicultural and diverse, it is imperative that healthcare industry professionals, including those working in ultrasound technology, reflect that diversity.
Tomorrow is Here
For years the predictions have indicated the U.S. population was increasingly diverse. The predictions for ‘tomorrow’ have arrived. Analysts that study college procedures and student demographics say the term ‘traditional student’ is quickly becoming obsolete. California is a good example. The University of California system, consisting of nine schools, counted more Latino students admitted than white students for the 2016 academic year (a complete list of accredited or recognized sonography schools in California in 2017). The sonography profession needs more diverse students to join the effort to bring quality healthcare to the U.S. population.