Becky Schulkowski, Member of HCAT
On Thursday, August 4, members of the Healthcare Administrators of Tidewater chapter of ACHE gathered to hear panelists speak on “Diversity and Inclusion”. Speakers included Mary Blunt, PT, MHA, FACHE, Senior Corporate Vice President, Sentara Healthcare and Jennifer Shinn, MA, SPHR, SHRM SCP, Director Human Resources, Riverside Medical Group.
Ms. Blunt started the evening by sharing some poignant examples of challenges that stem from caring for a diverse patient population. In one story, a patient from Haiti was in the hospital, and the family wanted to follow a traditional Haitian custom of cutting off a chicken’s head and smearing blood around the room in order to help heal the patient. This custom was culturally significant to the patient and the family, but posed several challenges to the care team.
Another example was about a young girl that presented with abdominal pain in the Emergency Room. She was Spanish speaking, and there were potentially avoidable delays in her care due to communication issues. Her pain wasn’t truly appreciated until her sister called 911 from the hospital ER. At this point, the staff took quicker action and the patient ended up in the Operating Room to get her appendix removed. The leadership team had a stand-down with the ER staff because they feared that staff biases were part of the cause of the delay in care. After interviewing the staff, their fears were confirmed. Several staff members stated that they treated the patient differently because she was Spanish speaking.
Ms. Blunt stressed that these situations could happen at any hospital in the country. We all bring biases with us to work every day. Our biases can lead to substandard quality of care, if we don’t recognize and address the impact that diversity has on our team members. We need to ensure that we meet our patients where they are, not where we are.
Ms. Shinn presented the concepts of diversity and inclusion from another standpoint – that of our team members and leaders. She shared the ethnic breakdown of the five major markets that Riverside serves, and then compared that to the ethnic breakdown of the staff members in those same markets. She shared that Riverside resembles its population, which positively impacts Riverside’s ability to care for their patients. Embracing diversity will improve staff recruitment and retention, and increase the quality of work and ideas that team members contribute. By having a diverse workforce that mirrors the community, the customers will be more enticed to choose you and remain loyal to your company.
Ms. Shinn also discussed how we need to be more expansive on how we think about diversity. It’s not just race and ethnicity. Diversity also includes religion, language, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic factors, physical ability, and thought processes. She shared an example of how differences in thought processes led to conflict at work. In one case, two pharmacy technicians who were of the same age, race, and attended the same high school ended up as co-workers. While at the surface they “looked” the same, their thought processes and work habits were vastly different. One team member worked quickly, wanting to make sure that they got the medications to the patient as soon as possible. The other team member worked slower, always re-checking the medications to make sure they were correct before sending them up to the nursing unit. The two could not get along. One thought the other was “reckless”, while the other thought they were “too slow”. It took a conversation between the manager and the two team members to show that they both had the same goal: to take care of the patient. One focused on getting the medications up to the patient quickly, while the other focused on accuracy. By putting the focus back on the patient, they were able to work through their differences and utilize each other’s strengths.
As a healthcare director, the challenges of a diverse patient population and healthcare team are felt every day. Diversity can lead to conflict, miscommunication, conflicting expectations, and resistance to change. The stories shared could happen in any facility, and healthcare leaders must be responsive to the growing diversity of the community and their team members. It is critical to healthcare organizations’ financial survival to understand and embrace the needs of a diverse population. Those needs could require modified operational processes or potentially new services. Examples include expanded translation services, sensitivity to patient preferences for modesty, and requiring diversity training as a core competency for their leadership and team members. The composition of healthcare boards should also diversify to match the community served. This can be achieved by balancing the traditional skill-set board with a representative board structure.
The evening ended with several questions from the audience, but one comment from Mike Warrington, Captain, MSC, USN, particularly stood out and perfectly summarized the discussion of the evening. He shared that his healthcare background included his prior job as a radiology technician. He made the analogy of the diversity of a healthcare team to taking x-rays. You rarely perform a single view when taking an x-ray; you do multiple views so you don’t miss something. In the same vein, you want to have a diversified team that has multiple points of view so that you can provide the best care possible.Email Home Previous Article
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