Words Matter: An Antibias Workshop for Health Care Professionals to Reduce Stigmatizing Language

MedEdPORTAL. 2021 Mar 2:17:11115. doi: 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.11115.


Introduction: Biased language influences health care providers' perceptions of patients, impacts their clinical care, and prevents vulnerable populations from seeking treatment. Training clinicians to systematically replace biased verbal and written language is an essential step to providing equitable care.

Methods: We designed and implemented an interactive workshop to teach health care professionals a framework to identify and replace stigmatizing language in clinical practice. The workshop included a reflective exercise, role-play, brief didactic session, and case-based discussion. We developed the program for a broad target audience of providers and initially delivered it at three academic conferences. We used descriptive statistics to analyze Likert-style items on course evaluations and identified themes in open-text responses.

Results: A total of 66 participants completed course evaluations; most believed the workshop met its objectives (4.8 out of 5.0) and strongly agreed that they would apply skills learned (4.8). Participants planned to incorporate reflection into their verbal and written language. Potential barriers to applying course content included perceived difficulty in changing entrenched practice habits, burnout, and fatigue. Suggestions for improvement included more time for group discussions and strategies to teach skills to colleagues.

Discussion: Participants found the course material highly engaging and relevant to their clinical practice. Learners left the workshop feeling motivated to engage in more mindful word choice and to share key concepts with their colleagues.

Keywords: Anti-racism; Bias; Case-Based Learning; Communication Skills; Cultural Competence; Diversity; Health Disparities; Health Equity; Inclusion; Language; Professionalism.

MeSH terms

  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Learning
  • Surveys and Questionnaires