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Systemic Racism Believed to Have Impact: A Qualitative Evaluation of How Caregivers Feel They are Viewed and Treated 

On the heels of a hard hitting WaPo article entitled  “Black Women are Underpaid and Over Represented in Healthcare’s Toughest Jobs” by Julianne McShane, The Center For Advancing Racial Equity and Job Quality In Long-Term Care Center for Equity partnered with Hart Research to conduct an in-depth qualitative evaluation of identities, wellness, systemic racism and how the quality of life could be improved for long-term caregivers. Black women are most likely to work in the long-term care sector, as home care workers and certified nursing aides, and these roles which have been found through the pandemic to be essential, are characterized by low wages, lack of benefits, and hazardous working conditions.


Research participants believe that systemic racism affects how employers value their work. One wrote, “The people who make important decisions don’t think of this as a viable job. They relate our job to the work done by slaves for many years.” Another remarked, “Well if this were a job held by thin blue-eyed blonde-haired women, we would all be in Forbes magazine.”


“As a fellow health care worker, we are faced with many challenges in our line of work. We are looked at as the bottom tier and belittled for the work that we do,” says Charlene Dickerson, a home care worker and Center for Equity advisory board member. We have the most tasks to complete and get zero recognition for the time and effort we put in with each individual client. We are devalued and underpaid,  but the most needed in the field. As one of many minorities in this field it’s hard for us to be taken seriously or elevate in our line of work. When will change come?”


“Long-term care workers, who are disproportionately Black women compared to other demographic groups, have been on the frontlines of the pandemic providing care in some of the fastest growing occupations in the country,” explained Deborah Schwartz, Senior Program Manager for Center for Equity. “This study commissioned by the Center for Equity underscores that it’s time we listen to—and invest in—Black women if we are to strengthen job quality and confront structural racism in long-term care and build an equitable caregiving system that benefits everyone.”


Research participants reported big challenges to get quality housing, pay monthly bills, and save money for important life events. They also express concern that their clients do not receive enough hours to get the level of care that they need and they believe that they are not appropriately compensated for their work. 


The report clearly reveals that while Black women do some of the hardest work in health care, their pay and working conditions do not reflect such. The average hourly pay for many of these caregivers is less than $15 an hour. The Center for Equity hopes that this study helps in the continued push for healthcare equity.


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