How to Make DEI a Reality in Healthcare Delivery

By Sarah Knight, ShiftMed Content Manager//Healthcare Industry, Healthcare Staffing
An image of nurses walking down the hall of a hospital and talking.

In healthcare delivery, "diversity, equity, and inclusion" (DEI) has two key aspects. Hospitals must provide culturally competent care for diverse patients and foster a workplace that embraces diversity, ensures equity, and promotes inclusivity among nurses. Addressing both areas enables healthcare organizations to serve their communities better and support their workforce.

So, what can your hospital or health system do to make DEI in healthcare a reality? We're going to explore just that.

What Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Before we get into how your hospital or health system can implement DEI strategies, it’s essential to answer this question. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are increasingly recognized and prioritized in various sectors, including workplaces, learning institutions, community organizations, and healthcare facilities.

Diversity refers to differences within a setting and acknowledges that each person brings unique perspectives and experiences. Equity promotes fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people. Inclusion focuses on making individuals or groups feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to participate fully.

An image of three nurses with the text DEI in the field of nursing applies to education, patient care, care teams, and leadership.

Fostering DEI in Healthcare Delivery

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare delivery emphasize the creation of fair, effective, and reflective environments that align with diverse patient populations. More specifically, DEI in healthcare aims to improve patient outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce health disparities by fostering trust and rapport with individuals and promoting justice and equality for all walks of life.

In the webinar Diversity and Inclusion in Nursing Leadership: A Roadmap, Crystal Beckford, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center, shared her thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices from a CNO perspective.

She explained that demonstrating cultural competence and prioritizing quality outcomes fosters trust. Patients are likelier to trust healthcare providers who create an inclusive, respectful environment focused on service and excellence.

5 Ways to Deliver DEI-Focused Patient Care

Beckford also stressed the importance of championing and modeling DEI behavior as a nurse leader. "You have to be a champion of diversity by walking the walk and talking the talk every day, and it's reflected in the things you do or don't do." Here are five ways your hospital or healthcare facility can ensure nurses deliver DEI-focused patient care.

1. DEI Training and Education

Nurses can provide more personalized and effective care when they understand and respect cultural differences. Therefore, offering them ongoing education and training focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion is crucial to enhancing their understanding of cultural differences and health disparities.

2. Cultural Competence Programs

Nurses equipped with cultural competence skills can better understand and meet the unique needs of diverse populations, fostering trust and rapport with patients. Therefore, it’s vital to offer programs that teach nurses how to communicate and interact effectively with patients from diverse backgrounds.

3. Inclusive Policies and Procedures

Develop and enforce policies and procedures that promote equity and inclusion in all patient care and workplace operations. It's also critical to ensure your nursing staff delivers care in alignment with ethical standards and legal requirements and promotes justice and equality in healthcare delivery.

4. Resource Availability

Ensuring the availability of resources like translation services, cultural liaisons, and patient education materials in multiple languages is vital for delivering DEI-focused patient care. These resources are crucial in breaking down language and cultural barriers, significantly impacting care quality and patient outcomes.

5. Health Equity Data

By collecting and analyzing outcome data across different patient demographics, you can help mitigate systemic inequities in healthcare. Your facility can then identify and address disparities proactively, ensuring all patients receive fair and equitable treatment regardless of their backgrounds.

By taking these steps, you can create an environment where your nurses are well-equipped to improve the quality of care for all patients.

An image of Crystal Beckford, CNO at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center.

Promoting DEI in Healthcare Staffing

DEI in healthcare staffing encompasses policies, programs, and practices aimed at fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. The concept supports the belief that recruiting and supporting employees from varied backgrounds is crucial for an organization's success.

During the webinar, Beckford discussed how she's had the opportunity to work exclusively on DEI initiatives at Luminis Health for the past three years.

"Our approach has been multifaceted, focusing on support, conversations, trust-building, and evolving our environment to meet workforce needs. These strategies have significantly reduced our turnover rate from over 36%, which was above the national average, to 19%.”

One crucial aspect of Luminis Health's initiatives is creating various pathways for individuals to enter the nursing workforce. After all, the traditional route of attending a four-year school isn't feasible for everyone. Therefore, they've established development programs to discover potential nurses in unexpected places, such as food and nutrition services and transport.

Beckford also talked about identifying individuals with the right qualities and characteristics and giving them access to necessary support programs. “We're committed to providing resources and mentorship opportunities that lend to a more inclusive approach to nursing education and career development. This has been a key area of our work, and we've been very intentional in our efforts."

Involving various stakeholders is essential when fostering a more diverse and inclusive work environment. The human resources department at Luminis Health plays a significant role, alongside the nursing staff, in DEI initiatives.

“Another key initiative we've implemented is ensuring diversity within our interview panels. Nurses participate in these panels, and we make sure the panel is diverse, reflecting the inclusivity we aim to achieve,” noted Beckford.

Additionally, Luminis Health has developed robust recruitment strategies to minimize biases by standardizing processes and procedures to create a fair and equitable hiring environment. These efforts extend beyond welcoming new hires; they begin long before individuals consider a nursing career. Luminis Health is working to create a pipeline of future nurses by engaging early with local school systems.

"We've established strong partnerships with community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Although we have several HBCUs in our area, we also reach out to HBCUs outside our region, understanding that many students return to our community after graduation," she concluded.

An image of two nurses comparing patient notes with the text: Prioritizing DEI in the workplace promotes better communication, collaboration, and problem-solving.

5 Ways to Promote DEI in the Workplace

By prioritizing DEI initiatives within your workforce operations, you can expect better communication, a more supportive and collaborative environment, and enhanced innovation and problem-solving. Here are five ways to promote DEI in the workplace:

1. Mix Generations Within Nursing Teams

Age is an important factor to consider in discussions of diversity. People can experience age discrimination at any stage of life, such as a mature employee being excluded from a new project because of their impending retirement.

Age should be seen as an asset in a DEI context. Integrating diverse age groups brings various perspectives, enhancing innovation and problem-solving. By valuing contributions from all age groups, your facility can share each generation's unique experiences and insights, leading to more dynamic and effective teams.

2. Ensure Physical and Psychological Safety

Safety is essential for nurses to function effectively as part of a team and feel a sense of belonging. In the context of DEI in healthcare, this involves physical and psychological safety.

In terms of physical safety, make sure your facility is equipped with the necessary accommodations to ensure that nurses, regardless of physical ability or personal needs, can navigate and use the workplace comfortably and safely.

A psychologically safe environment encourages open communication, collaboration, and innovation, as nurses feel secure in expressing their ideas and concerns without fear of judgment or retribution. This is crucial for delivering high-quality patient care and maintaining a supportive work environment.

3. Normalize Work Environment Customization

Instead of fitting everyone on your nursing team into the same mold, it's essential to recognize that each nurse's situation and preferences are unique. Organizations have learned that recruiting and retaining nursing talent in the post-pandemic era requires a nuanced understanding of nurses' needs.

Key strategies to ensure nurses feel valued and supported include offering flexible staffing, same-day pay, transportation assistance, childcare support, and career development opportunities. These customized approaches help create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for nurses.

4. Establish Employee Resource Groups

Start an Employee Resource Group (ERG) that provides a safe space for nurses to seek personal and career development support. Originating in the 1960s, these groups addressed race-based workplace tensions. For ERGs to be effective and contribute to a more inclusive and supportive workplace, leaders must actively support and encourage participation.

5. Measure DEI Progress

When enhancing DEI efforts, you should start by assessing the current state of your initiatives. Identify relevant KPIs to track progress effectively. For example, evaluating gender balance in recruitment and promotion can be a crucial starting point. This data-driven approach helps your facility understand where improvements are needed and ensures that DEI goals are being met.

DEI in Healthcare Conclusion

Making DEI a reality in healthcare delivery requires a concerted effort from all levels of an organization, especially from nurse leaders who play a crucial role in fostering an inclusive environment. By implementing DEI-focused patient care strategies and promoting a diverse and supportive workplace, healthcare facilities can significantly enhance patient outcomes and staff satisfaction.

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