Texas Nurse Fired for Refusing Implicit Bias Training

After spending decades in the profession caring for patients, in 2019, Laura Morgan became a nurse educator at Baylor, Scott & White (BSW) Hospital in College Station, Texas. There she helped provide continuing education and professional development courses for other nurses and health professionals until conflict over a new training module led to her termination earlier this year.

In September 2021, BSW introduced a new mandatory training session entitled “Overcoming Unconscious Bias,” which Morgan says makes assumptions about all white people.

“After 39 years of providing equal care to all patients without regard to their race, I objected to a mandatory course grounded in the idea that I’m racist because I’m white,” Morgan wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

Morgan told The Texan she met several times with supervisors and communicated with BSW’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer to express her concerns, but the hospital refused to grant an exemption and in February 2022 she was fired.

The theory of implicit bias is grounded in the idea that regardless of a person’s stated beliefs or values, they unknowingly or “unconsciously” discriminate against members of other ethnic groups. Some social psychologists and political leaders apply the idea primarily to white Americans they say have racist associations without awareness and need to acknowledge this problem.

Founding Director of the National Training Institute on Race and Equity Professor Bryant Marks, a former advisor to President Obama, claims that regardless of what a person consciously believes, the “only two ingredients you need for having implicit bias [are] living in a society and having a brain.” Marks promotes trainings for every sector of business and public service to dismantle unconscious bias against others for race, sex, weight, and disabilities.

Skeptics, however, point out that there is no consensus on the definition of implicit bias, and that many experiments to test it have not applied scientific methods. Social psychologist Lee Jussim wrote that “the most dramatic claims about implicit bias have been debunked or, at least shown to be dubious and scientifically controversial.” Jussim added that the many implicit bias tests available only measure reaction times and do not predict behavior.

Proponents of Implicit Bias courses for healthcare settings attribute disparities in health outcomes for different racial groups to hidden racism and claim that training in which whites acknowledge unconscious bias can help alleviate the problem.

Morgan suggested that such training could inhibit proper training and, ultimately, care for patients.

“It creates barriers between doctors and nurses and their patients, and hinders the relationship,” said Morgan.

“My objection is to mandated training for implicit or unconscious bias is because the material in those courses is intended to tell health care providers what to think instead of how to think,” said Morgan. “My job as an educator was to guide people who take care of patients, especially young nurses, and to develop their critical thinking skills, not their critical race theory skills.”

Morgan notes that training at BSW and other healthcare providers in Texas is shifting towards historian and activist Ibram X. Kendi’s idea of “anti-racism,” which teaches that claiming not to be racist is the “heartbeat of racism.”

In response to a request for comment from The Texan, a spokesperson for BSW emailed to say, “Baylor Scott & White Health believes in the importance of, and is committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives; and it believes in providing its team members resources for continual development.”

Several states have implemented mandatory implicit bias training for licensure, and although Texas does not, the Texas Nurses Association advocates for such training and argues that healthcare workers should become activists against what they describe as “systemic racism” in the industry.

Harris County, Texas has also declared racism a public health crisis and instructed the county government to “dismantle the systemic racism that creates barriers to strong public health.”

Last year, Texas gubernatorial candidate and former state Senator Don Huffines published training materials from the Department of Family and Protective Services that included teaching about critical race theory and implicit bias.

After her termination from BSW, Morgan became the program manager for Do No Harm, a newly launched group drawing attention to the rise of “Critical Race Theory” in the healthcare profession.

Do No Harm board chair Dr. Stanley Goldfarb has warned that efforts to diversify the medical field by lowering standards for certain ethnic groups will have a deleterious effect on the industry.

This year, the group also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator over race-based rulemaking and filed complaints against medical colleges allegedly discriminating against white students.

Across the country, employees in other industries have lost jobs over their refusal to comply with so-called “anti-racist” statements. In one case, attorney Nicole Levitt filed a complaint against her employer after being asked to sign a statement saying she would “own that all white people are racist and that I am not the exception.”

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