Is Virginia about to attack physicians and nurses—and even claim they’re racist? That’s the question now that the state House and Senate have introduced legislation that would mandate “unconscious bias” training as a condition of licensure. Such training is insulting, unsupported by the evidence, and inherently divisive—all while paving the way for racial discrimination.
“Unconscious bias” is another name for “implicit bias,” and either way, this concept holds that people are either victims or oppressors based on their skin color. That fact alone makes the concept deeply concerning, as it reflects a skin-deep understanding of human beings. People are more than their melanin, yet implicit bias training reduces individuals to a caricature based on group identity.
It gets worse. There is no evidence that medical professionals treat patients differently based on skin color, and in fact, physicians and nurses train to give everyone the best and most personalized care. Additionally, implicit bias tests have been widely condemned by scholars, while the creators of the most widely used test have admitted its severe limitations.
Implicit bias training is anything but harmless. By telling whites and Asians that they’re biased or even racist, it encourages them to provide different levels of care to patients based on skin color. Such preferential care is inherently discriminatory and has no place in medicine.
Virginia’s legislation would create one of the most aggressive implicit-bias training mandates in the nation. Every physician and nurse in the state would be forced to endure the training every time they apply for or renew their license—i.e., every few years. The constant race-based insults will worsen the crisis of burnout in the medical profession, while sowing divisive ideas across medicine.
Virginia’s medical professionals have devoted their lives to providing equal and excellent care to all. They deserve better than for their own state to attack them and tar them as racist.
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