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Overcoming Cognitive Bias in Healthcare Leadership

We all have some form of cognitive bias. Learn how cognitive bias in healthcare can shape your decisions-making process and learn strategies to overcome them.

cognitive bias in paramedics

Cognitive biases are the mental shortcuts our brains take to simplify the decision-making process, but they can often lead to errors in judgment. All of us have cognitive biases in some way. Some biases are deliberate, but for most people, they hide below the surface. Examples of common biases include:

Confirmation Bias

This is when we only pay attention to information that supports what we already believe, even if there's additional info that's equally important.

Anchoring Bias

Ever make a decision based on the first thing you heard or thought? That's anchoring bias at work.

Availability Heuristic

It's when we rely too much on what's fresh in our memory. This can make us ignore other important facts.

But, it’s not just individuals who have cognitive bias habits to overcome. They can exist within organizations as a whole. These look like collective patterns of thinking and decision-making that continue without questioning. They’re often passed on as norms or traditions. But if we can change organizational systems, we can begin developing a more inclusive workplace.


Strategies for Overcoming Biases

The first step to tackling biases is knowing they exist. Removing biased thinking isn’t likely to happen overnight. Real change requires you to develop awareness about what activates your biases and consistently choose a new response. Here are some ways leaders in prehospital care can overcome biases:

  1. Get Different Perspectives: Listen to what others have to say. Getting different viewpoints can help balance out our biases.

  2. Question Yourself: Always ask if there might be another way to look at things. Doubting our first thoughts can help us see the bigger picture.

  3. Use Tools: Sometimes, having a plan in place can help us stay on track and avoid relying too much on our gut feelings.

  4. Learn from Mistakes: Looking back on past decisions can help us spot where our biases might have led us astray. It's not about being regretful, but rather all about learning and growing.

Biases are part of being human, but they don't have to control our decisions. Like with any habit, overcoming bias involves practice and repetition. By being aware and using strategies to mitigate them, paramedic leaders and organizations can make better choices toward a healthier, more inclusive workplace.

Want to learn more about how to expand your impact as a leader? Browse our range of courses and certifications designed for health professionals in prehospital care.

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