WATCH: Whitmer announces implicit bias training guidelines for health care professionals

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– On Tuesday afternoon Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held an in-person news conference with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to announce new implicit bias training guidelines in health care settings.

Under the rules, health care professionals would need to complete implicit bias training as part of the knowledge and skills necessary for licensing. New applicants looking to receive a license will need to complete two hours of training, and applicants for renewal will need to complete a minimum of one hour of training each year.  The annual training curriculum can cover a variety of topics related to implicit bias but must incorporate strategies to reduce disparities including the administration of self-assessments. 

The new requirement will be effective June 1, 2022.

“Today’s new training guidelines will help us mitigate the impacts of implicit bias and ensure every patient in Michigan receives the best possible care,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “These rules will save lives and improve health outcomes for generations of Michiganders, especially those who have been historically and systemically discriminated against. They will make Michigan safer, healthier, and more just.” 

Last year, Whitmer created the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities through the Executive Order 2020-55 and was chaired by Lt. Gov. Gilchrist, to work in an advisory capacity to the governor. The task force studied the causes of racial disparities and recommend actions to address the historical and systemic inequities. They released a report on their findings earlier this year.

Upon recommendation from the task force, Whitmer signed Michigan Executive Directive 2020-07, which directed LARA to create rules for implicit bias training standards for licensure, registration, and renewal of licenses and registrations of health professionals in Michigan.

The governor’s office says today’s announcement caps nearly 11 months of collaboration and engagement with licensees, insurance providers, hospitals, health care associations, legislators, state agencies, higher education, and community and advocacy groups. 

“Implicit, unconscious bias exists within each of us, and as public servants, we have a duty to understand and address how our biases can impact the lives of others,” said Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. “The health disparities highlighted during the pandemic made it clear that there is more work to do to ensure that bias does not prevent people of color from experiencing the same access to quality, equitable of health care as everyone else. Today’s new rules, which were a key recommendation of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, are additional building blocks that will help us create a culture of responsive inclusion that will make make state government and the practice of medical professions in Michigan a national model for equality, understanding, and fairness. I sincerely thank the task force members, partners, and supporters for their work on this important effort.”  

“LARA is proud to support our health care professionals in delivering the highest quality of care to all patients,” said LARA Director Orlene Hawks.  “While technical knowledge and clinical skills should always be held to a high standard, it is equally important that health professionals understand the ways in which they view and interact with the communities they serve.  As a result of this new training requirement, we anticipate improvements in the delivery of care, stronger relationships with communities, and ultimately better health outcomes.” 

“As a member of the Racial Disparities Task Force, I am proud to see Governor Whitmer and the state of Michigan adopt our implicit bias recommendation,” said Renee Canady, CEO of Michigan Public Health Institute. “Thanks to LARA’s swift action and implementation, health care professionals will now be trained to recognize and correct their own biases towards the Michiganders they serve. This new rule is a huge first step in our work to create a health care system that equitably serves everyone in our state.”   

“Ensuring health care workers receive implicit bias training is a major, positive step toward improving health outcomes for Black and Brown Michiganders,” said Democratic Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden. “I’m grateful to have worked with Governor Whitmer on this important policy priority for the past year, during the coronavirus pandemic, which has laid bare the disparities in health outcomes facing communities of color.” 

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