There’s no debating that diversifying your staff can lead to a stronger company.

Debbie Storey, senior vice president of talent development and chief diversity officer at AT&T, recently told Forbes Insights  “At the end of the day, when you’re creating an environment where people can come together and bring their own views and feel respected, competitively, your company will do so much better.” This is especially true in healthcare where it’s not just the bottom line that’s at stake, it’s the actual ability to care for people who need it, no matter their age, ethnicity, or gender.

Because healthcare is about so much more than administering medicine, it helps if people, patients, and caregivers, can connect on a human level. If the background and experience of the healthcare workers mirror that of those that need care– and that’s everyone at some point- the connection is easier for patients to make. Simply put, no one is immune from illness and accident and each person deserves to have their individual needs understood, and met.

Think about it. Anyone who’s been admitted to a hospital is already having a tough time. The environment is unfamiliar and there’s likely been a pretty difficult health event recently. Seeing someone who looks familiar, who may share some commonalities in terms of culture and background, can help ease discomfort.

Fortunately, at some levels, healthcare is relatively diverse. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nearly half of all people employed in residential care facilities identify themselves as African American, Asian, or Hispanic/Latino. However as it relates to overall healthcare and social assistance, the need for diversification is apparent.

To be clear, it’s not just about diversifying the workforce. It’s about creating a culture of inclusivity in healthcare so that people of any ethnic background, gender, or age will feel like they are welcome and have career potential. That way the patients will see themselves not just in the faces of their long-term care staff, but in the eye doctor the cardiologist. How much easier would it be on some patients if they could talk to a caregiver who was bilingual?

How can diversity in healthcare get to where it needs to be?

First: start with your current team. Reaching out can be as anonymous and informal as a survey about the current state of diversity and inclusivity in the company. Another approach is to have small group discussions where ideas are exchanged and people in key positions actively notice who is not “in the room”, and listen to the views of the staff that are underrepresented. Why did they choose to work for your company? How do they feel about the culture? Most importantly, what do they need from you to grow in their position?

Think outside of the box to get the best access to diverse populations. There are minority focused business organizations that have networks of professionals that are savvy and career focused. These associations, both online and in your own community, are great resources.

Finally, as uncomfortable as it may seem at first, be open and public about your commitment to diversity. Post Acute Medical’s President and CEO, Tony Misitano, recently joined CEOs Action for Diversity and Inclusion. The members of this organization have publicly committed, including signing a pledge, to make their workplaces trusting places to have complex conversations about diversity and inclusion and implement and expand unconscious bias education. Working together with other CEO’s will share best practices as well as unsuccessful ones, all in an effort to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Healthcare staffing is already the biggest challenge for Hospital Executives and it will continue to get worse as the population ages, ultimately creating more demand for care. To that end, creating a culture of diversity and inclusivity is much more than trying to hire more people who are underrepresented in the healthcare industry. It’s about hard conversations and active listening, thinking outside the box when it comes to networking and hiring, and publicly, actively, committing to the hard work that needs to be done.

In the end, our industry will be better because we will be better able to serve any, and all, patients that need our care.