"I don't want to be the squeaky wheel": Addressing bias as a leader in emergency medicine

Acad Emerg Med. 2024 Apr;31(4):354-360. doi: 10.1111/acem.14869. Epub 2024 Feb 23.


Background: Implicit bias poses a barrier to inclusivity in the health care workforce and is detrimental to patient care. While previous studies have investigated knowledge and training gaps related to implicit bias, emergency medicine (EM) leaders' self-awareness and perspectives on bias have not been studied. Using art to prompt reflections on implicit bias, this qualitative study explores (1) the attitudes of leaders in EM toward implicit bias and (2) individual or structural barriers to navigating and addressing bias in the workplace.

Methods: Investigators facilitated an hour-long workshop in May 2022 for those with leadership positions in the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM), a leading national EM organization, including 62 attending physicians, eight residents/fellows, and four medical students. The workshop utilized arts-based methods to generate a psychologically supportive space to lead conversations around implicit bias in EM. The session included time for individual reflection, where participants used an electronic platform to respond anonymously to questions regarding susceptibility, fears, barriers, and experiences surrounding bias. Two independent coders compiled, coded, and reviewed the responses using an exploratory constructivist approach.

Results: A total of 125 responses were analyzed. Four major themes emerged: (1) acceptance that bias exists; (2) individual barriers, including fear of negative reactions, often due to power dynamics between respondents and other members of the ED; (3) institutional barriers, such as insufficient funding and unprotected time committed to addressing bias; and (4) ambiguity about defining and prioritizing bias.

Conclusions: This qualitative analysis of reflections from an arts-based workshop highlights perceived fears and barriers that may impact EM physicians' motivation and comfort in addressing bias. These results may help guide interventions to address individual and structural barriers to mitigating bias in the workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Emergency Medicine* / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Physicians*
  • Qualitative Research