Background Research reports that health outcomes are not equal among individuals in the United States. For instance, maternal death rates are higher for Black women than for White (Rabin, 2019). Such healthcare disparities are not limited to adult healthcare. Some research indicates evidence of disparity in pediatric prescriptions and diagnoses of certain illnesses in Black children versus non-Black children (Gerber et al., 2013). Additionally, research has been published discussing the prevalence of implicit bias in health care and how such bias impacts implementation of medical care (Gerber et al., 2013; Wisniewski & Walker, 2020; Sabin & Greenwald, 2012). A review of literature found no qualitative studies discussing the parent perspectives of perceived racial bias in their child’s healthcare in emergency departments. This study seeks to fill this gap in the research by using a qualitative method of interviewing mothers of minority children and mothers of White children to investigate the levels of perceived racial bias in their adolescents’ previous emergency room visits.

Methods Perceived bias was assessed by interviewing 10 mothers of minority children and 9 mothers of White children. Participants included mothers from Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. An 11-item semi-structured interview guide was used in order to discover participants’ perceptions of their child’s emergency room care. Two questions from the Commonwealth Fund’s 2001 Health Quality survey were used to assess participants’ views on discrimination in healthcare and life in the United States. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed utilizing in-vivo and general inductive coding methods.

Results Mothers of minority children did not perceive negative medical treatment of their children; however, 40% of mothers of minority children felt misunderstood because of race or something cultural about them. Further codes or themes of participant interviews included: Familiarity with Emergency Room Staff, Insurance, and Privilege. Mothers of minority children perceived higher levels of discrimination in healthcare and general minority discrimination than mothers of White children.

Conclusions Some surveyed mothers of minority children perceived racial bias and cultural misunderstanding in their adolescents’ care in emergency rooms. Though mothers of minority children did not necessarily feel as though their children received lower levels of care due to race, it is important to note how perceptions of bias and cultural misunderstandings affect minorities’ perceptions of their child’s healthcare.