Fighting Racism in the Clinic

What you can do as a healthcare provider

By Mallory Rapalyea OTD, OTR/LEdited by Taylor Rapalyea, Victoria You OTDS, & Barbara Kornblau JD, OTR/L

It has come to our attention that many of us want to be more active in the fight against systemic racism. The lack of social justice and equality in our nation has just recently, finally, received global recognition. Knowing where and how to take action can be daunting. Here is a short but sweet list of ways you can take action today.

We encourage you to share this list, ask questions, and make comments; this should be a living, evolving document, meant to bring people and ideas together. Thanks in advance!

Level I: Will only take a few minutes

  1. Recognize: No one is perfectly culturally competent, but that our cultural competence is ever evolving.
  2. Stand up: Say something: when you see or hear a client or coworker making racist comments or participating in microaggression.
    1. This can be overwhelming, but you can get started with this web article: Speak Up
  3. Educate yourself: Familiarize yourself with the terms microaggression, inequity, and white privilege. Be introspective about how these terms apply to you personally and to society as a whole.
  4. Translate: Always use proper translation services. For example, call in translation assistance,, a medical interpreter, or a fluent colleague when seeing a client who speaks a language in which you are not fluent.
  5. Advocate: You can put pins and stickers on your personal belongings to advocate for minority populations, signaling to others that coming to you is safe. Example: Safe Space Sticker
  6. Use client-centered language: Make sure to individualize evaluation and treatment sessions. Try to understand and treat your clients holistically, recognizing their uniqueness.
  7. Spotlight: Bring forward the voices of those who come from marginalized communities in your journal clubs and other organizations. Respect and believe what they report.
  8. Acknowledge: Racism exists within the healthcare system.

Level II: Might take an hour or two

  1. Participate: Watch and or speak in a webinar addressing diversity and anti-racism work in the healthcare field. Webinar: Shifting the Narrative to Advance Racial Equity
  2. Research: Read about the impact of racism on the healthcare system
  3. Research some more: Read about the impact of racism on the health of individuals from diverse populations and their communities, and don’t stop reading - even when you think you’ve heard it all. You might start by reading this article: Racism and Health or watching this Ted Talk: How Racism Makes Us Sick
  4. Know the Standards: Educate yourself on your state and company policies regarding discrimination in the workplace.
  5. Disseminate: Share this knowledge on social media, in meetings, at work, and outside of work.
  6. Fight: Make your voice heard and advocate for legislation that addresses racial disparities in healthcare. Example: Increase Diversity in the Occupational Therapy Workforce

Level III: A few days of work, but worth the effort

  1. Organize: Advocate for a presentation at your workplace from a local community organizer or nonprofit prevention expert on topics such as racial inequities and anti-oppression.
  2. Make it happen: Implement additional diversity training and cultural competence in supervision training. Diversity training example: Connecting Culture & Inclusion with Skills and Tools to Impact HealthCare Results