Background: Increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the physician workforce is a national priority. However, insight into the professional experiences of minority physicians is limited. This knowledge is fundamental to developing effective strategies to recruit, retain, and support a diverse physician workforce.
Objective: To characterize how physicians of African descent experience race in the workplace.
Design: Qualitative study based on in-person and in-depth racially concordant interviews using a standard discussion guide.
Setting: The 6 New England states in the United States.
Participants: 25 practicing physicians of African descent representing a diverse range of primary practice settings, specialties, and ages.
Measurements: Professional experiences of physicians of African descent.
Results: 1) Awareness of race permeates the experience of physicians of African descent in the health care workplace; 2) race-related experiences shape interpersonal interactions and define the institutional climate; 3) responses to perceived racism at work vary along a spectrum from minimization to confrontation; 4) the health care workplace is often silent on issues of race; and 5) collective race-related experiences can result in â€œracial fatigue,â€ with personal and professional consequences for physicians.
Limitations: The study was restricted to New England and may not reflect the experiences of physicians in other geographic regions. The findings are meant to be hypothesis-generating and require additional follow-up studies.
Conclusions: The issue of race remains a pervasive influence in the work lives of physicians of African descent. Without sufficient attention to the specific ways in which race shapes physiciansâ€™ work experiences, health care organizations are unlikely to create environments that successfully foster and sustain a diverse physician workforce.