Gretchen Whitmer Mandates Implicit Bias Training for Health Professionals in Michigan

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Tuesday announced health care workers will be required to complete implicit bias training in an effort to curb racial disparities in the medical community.

Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist announced the implicit bias training requirement, which is set to go into effect on June 1, 2022. The move make racial awareness training part of the knowledge and skills necessary to remain licensed to practice health care anywhere in the state of Michigan.

"Today's new training guidelines will help us mitigate the impacts of implicit bias and ensure every patient in Michigan receives the best possible care," Whitmer said in a Tuesday statement. "These rules will save lives and improve health outcomes for generations of Michiganders, especially those who have been historically and systemically discriminated against. They will make Michigan safer, healthier, and more just."

New health care licensees must complete two hours of implicit bias training and the 400,000 current state health care professionals must complete at least one hour of implicit bias training to remain licensed. The governor's office said the training itself will include a variety of topics that look to reduce racial disparities and will include a self-assessment of one's racial bias awareness at the end.

The implicit training courses aren't set to go into effect for one year in an effort to give trainers time to develop courses best suited for health care professionals.

"Implicit, unconscious bias exists within each of us, and as public servants we have a duty to understand and address how our biases can impact the lives of others," said Lt. Governor Gilchrist said at Tuesday's announcement. "The health disparities highlighted during the pandemic made it clear that there is more work to do to ensure that bias does not prevent people of color from experiencing the same access to quality, equitable of health care as everyone else."

Last June, less than one week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Michigan Senate unanimously approved S.B. 945, a requirement for incoming law enforcement officers to complete training on implicit bias. The bill also required training aimed at de-escalation techniques and mental health screening.

Despite the Democratic governor's push, Republican state lawmakers are still pushing forward with their effort to recall Whitmer. On Tuesday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers are set to consider a petition to recall her from office over COVID-19 small business concerns from over the past 15 months.

Newsweek reached out to Whitmer's Lansing offices Tuesday afternoon for any additional remarks about the new implicit bias requirement.

Gretchen Whitmer
Governor Gretchen Whitmer arrives for Electoral College votes count in Lansing, Michigan on December 14, 2020. Michigan health care workers will be required to complete implicit bias training in an effort to curb racial disparities in the medical community. Jeff Kowalsky/Getty