An Innovation That Resonates Across the Health Care Field
Now, more than ever, the importance of diversity in the health care setting needs to be seen, heard, and felt throughout the field. Dr. Sally Wasmuth, an OTR from Indiana, recognized the racial and gender disparities in health care and wanted to do something that would make an impression and bring these experiences into better focus.
Dr. Wasmuth focused her research on racial disparities among clinicians and ways to diversify the health care field. In doing so, she pioneered the development and use of theater-based interventions to address implicit bias among health care providers. Her program, Identity Development Evolution and Sharing (IDEAS), aims to reduce stigma and bias that health care providers may have when providing client care in order to promote occupational justice for all clients.
IDEAS has been used to share the authentic experiences, through theater performances, of people who have experienced discrimination and racism in health care, such as Black women, Black occupational therapists, transgender and gender-diverse individuals, and people with substance use disorders. Dr. Wasmuth’s theater-based approach has given participants and audiences opportunities to connect in different ways and start conversations that lead to personal reflection. Participants are encouraged to think more critically about experiences that they may not have recognized in the moment as being discriminatory or that they may not completely understand.
Dr. Wasmuth’s preliminary research is showing that the authentic storytelling approach positively influences audience members and community stakeholders. Those who participate in IDEAS interventions demonstrate changes in attitudes. Results also indicate that participants feel less stigma around accessing health care, allowing them to participate in health care service delivery and society with an increased sense of justice and an overall increase in quality of life.