Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Tuesday that the state will require health professionals to undergo implicit bias training as part of the licensing process.
The state’s Bureau of Professional Licensing (BPL) sent an email to health professionals informing them that the change would go into effect on June 1, 2022. Under the new rule, bias training will be required for both new applicants and those who are renewing their existing licenses and registrations.
According to the email, new applicants will be required to undergo a minimum of two hours of implicit bias training with a five-year window to complete the training. Renewing applicants must complete one hour of implicit bias training “for each year of the applicant’s license or registration cycle.”
The email defines implicit bias as “(A)n attitude or internalized stereotype that affects an individual’s perception, action or decision making in an unconscious manner and often contributes to unequal treatment of people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, age, disability, or other characteristics.”
In August, Whitmer declared racism a “public health crisis” and mandated implicit bias training for all state employees. Whitmer also created an advisory council to focus on issues affecting black people in Michigan. According to the Detroit Free Press, Whitmer said that black Michiganders are four times more likely to die from the coronavirus than their white counterparts because of “unequal economic and health care treatment and racism.
The training was recommended by Whitmer’s task force on racial disparities alongside a slew of organizations including “health professional boards, insurance providers, health systems, health care associations, legislators, state agencies, higher education, and community and advocacy groups.”
In a statement on mandated implicit bias training of state employees, Whitmer claimed that training can make a “positive difference” in improving so-called “racial equity.”
“COVID-19 has had a disparate impact on people of color due to a variety of factors, and we must do everything we can to address this disparity,” Whitmer said. “The evidence shows that training in implicit bias can make a positive difference, so today we are taking action to help improve racial equity across Michigan’s health care system.”
According to BLP’s email, the state’s implicit bias training will be related to “reducing barriers and disparities in access to and delivery of health care services.”
The training must include the following elements:
- Give “information on implicit bias, equitable access to health care, serving a diverse population, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and cultural sensitivity.”
- Explain “strategies to remedy the negative impact of implicit bias by recognizing and understanding how it impacts perception, judgment, and actions that may result in inequitable decision making, failure to effectively communicate, and result in barriers and disparities in the access to and delivery of health care services.”
- Discuss “the historical basis and present consequences of implicit biases based on an individual’s characteristics.”
- Discuss the “current research on implicit bias in the access to and delivery of health care services.”
The Bureau of Professional Licensing’s Director Debra Gagliardi told The Daily Wire that the organization has not considered which company it plans to contract for implicit bias training.
“The sponsor of an implicit bias training program and the licensee are responsible for ensuring that the training is aligned with the requirements of the rules,” Gagliardi said.
This article has been updated to include comment from Michigan’s Bureau of Professional Licensing.