DEI Initiatives Make for Safer Patient Care and Support for Staff
In collaboration with the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI), Whitman Partners moderated two Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) workshops during the 2022 OR Manager Conference pre-conference event on October 16 in Denver, CO.
Our panel for our BIPOC workshop welcomed Executive Director of Perioperative Services Tina Celifie, Manager of Surgical Services Terrice Ferguson, and Director of Nursing and Surgical Services Kendall Carter. Our LGBTQIA workshop included Director of Surgical Services Don Silvey, VP of Operations Ellen Cleary, Director of Surgical Services Jeff Belcher, and Surgical Services Consultant Brandon Bennett.
The following are highlights from both workshops.
The importance of staff translators or staff members who can translate to communicate healthcare information
Patients want to be respected and valued, and part of that comes from respecting the parts of their culture that we may not normally experience. There was a charity clinic one of my previous employers was affiliated with here in Denver, and we served a large portion of Hispanic patients. Nurses often find it easy to use their family members as translators. But sometimes, we found that a son wouldn’t necessarily directly translate what you’re saying to his mother because he is uncomfortable talking about her hysterectomy. So we had to take the time to respect and value them by getting an actual translator to ensure we’re providing quality care and that they understand what we’re going to do in surgery.
Knowing how to work around cultural practices while providing care
One day, I got called to the pre-op area because they had a patient that was reluctant to move forward from pre-op to the OR. I learned when I got there that she came in with a head covering, and it was very important to her that she not pass by her family without being covered. But the initial response from the nurse was, “You’ve got to take everything off.” So we provided cover for her so that she could maintain her cover, and we went into the OR, and it was no problem. But that is a good example of the nurse not really understanding, or not pushing forward to understand, why this woman did not want to move forward with going into the OR.
I have another instance where I had a Mexican family who prayed with their loved one before the surgery and wanted to tape a saint, made of cloth and paper, to the shoulder. Now, we were not doing anything to the shoulder. We were only going to work on the lower extremities. But once again, we had a nurse rigidly going by the rules saying that it had to come off. I got called in, and I’m bilingual, so I asked in Spanish what the issue was, and the mom shared with me that this part was blessed, and they had said a prayer, and if it’s not going to harm anything, why can’t her son go into the OR with it? And, of course, her son can go into the OR with it. We covered it with gauze so it would not get torn or ripped. The family responded so positively when we did that. Nurses are very focused on getting their job done because they have a line of items they must do in a very short period. That’s part of the struggle that we’re dealing with.
Allowing non-medicinal care (that does not interfere with surgical care).
We care about the population that we serve. We don’t want you to come to us only when you have a trauma. We want you to continually come and then pass the word to your friends and family and say, “They understood me.” They allowed me to have some lavender, or they were able to give me a piece of paper where I could do a visual scratch-off to relax myself. It can be anything. We gave you something, gave you comfort. So, I think it’s important for us to see each other, look at our demographics for our hiring practices, reflect on who we’re taking care of, and care enough to get to know who we’re caring for.
How healthcare organizations can support LGBTQ+ staff/patients
One of the things I think every organization should do, if they haven’t already, is to invite people to put their pronouns on their email signatures. It’s such a simple thing, but when I first started to see all these email signatures with the assorted pronouns, it made me feel very comfortable. When I email a client, I love that “he” and “his” are there. It just lets everyone know that we’re an open-minded company, this is just normal. It’s okay.
There is a program from the Human Rights Campaign that does a Healthcare Equity Index that many hospitals participate in. It requires certain criteria to be met to be a non-judgmental, safe, and accessible place for people in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s free and not difficult to do. One of the first things I did when I started at Northwestern was get rid of men’s and women’s bathrooms. Very simple things. These little steps make an impact. I can’t tell you how many folks reach out to me and say, “Hey, I know you’re passionate about this topic. I would like to know how to manage this situation.” Or “Can I find a mentor?” Just to be able to reach out and let me help you be what you want to be, advance your career, be comfortable in who you are and what you’re doing, and even how to talk to your grandmother. I think this is an agenda that, as healthcare professionals, we really need to advance and be responsible for. We can set this tone.
It’s so simple, but those little things start moving things to where they’re normal. It’s like, okay, we don’t have to make a big deal. This doesn’t have to be a gigantic conversation. It’s just this is who I am.
Some ways to address the barriers LGBTQIA patients face in getting equitable care
Some of the barriers still are very tangible. Some organizations are vocal about discrimination, respect and dignity, and treating the individual as a human. I had experience with an uncomfortable situation where a gentleman in the environment chose not to follow those standards. But during the investigation, it became very clear to me that the challenge was the culture still holding it quiet. It was still being pushed aside even though the organization was very clear about discrimination and derogatory treatment. I had to step outside of nursing to go to the physician bodies for support. With the executive level, physician, and nursing support, we were able to start working on the culture so that people can now speak when a negative situation comes up for them. It was not easy. We’re here to treat each other with respect, and that labeling and name-calling are not tolerable anymore. Hopefully, many of us as leaders are comfortable enough now to say, “We’re going take this on and address it in ways that we can change the environment.”
It’s huge to have the administration stand behind the policies and rhetoric they’re putting out. It’s one thing to say that we’re diverse and equitable, but it’s another to actually act on it when it needs to be acted on. Staff doesn’t always believe the support is there. We need to be more sincere and genuine about this.