Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN
In the U.S. there is a 61.1% chance that if you meet two people at random, they would be of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. With the U.S. population becoming more and more diverse, our workplaces should reflect this!
However, diversity is not only about race or ethnicity– it also extends to gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, education, and social background. Studies show that transgender patients are less likely to seek healthcare due to previous unpleasant experiences. As nurses and patient advocates, it is vital that we foster safe and inclusive environments for patients, our colleagues, and even ourselves.
A great way to do this is to join, or create a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee at work. Not only do you discuss your great ideas; you put them into action!
A DEI committee is a group of people who share the same goal of advocating and promoting both systemic and local change in the workplace. They assess and hold the workplace accountable, advocate for inclusive environments, promote equity, serve as advisors, and help to turn initiatives into a reality.
The committee should be composed of diverse individuals who bring their perspectives and ideas to implement cultural changes. Many of us may have great ideas for change or have a solution to a problem we noticed…but we don’t know what to do with it! A DEI committee can work to turn a great idea into a reality.
Reach out to your employer to find out if your workplace has an existing committee and find out how to join. If there’s currently no committee, speak to your manager about starting one!
DEI Committee Meetings
A committee may choose to meet for an hour, either monthly or bi-monthly, to discuss steps to take and projects to work on. Typically, your employer will block off time in your schedule to allow you time to meet.
Some initiatives you may tackle include reviewing policies, new staff training programs, hiring practices, updating registration paperwork, and insurance coverage. As you can see, some changes are system-wide and some are specific to the facility.
When I was on a DEI committee in public health, we advocated for job applications to be provided in Spanish. This was an important need, because one quarter of our patients were Spanish-speaking, and my employer was having difficulty hiring Spanish-speaking staff. This was also a community need because many potential candidates who would have happily gotten dressed for work in medical scrubs couldn’t access job applications in their language, like their English-speaking counterparts. The committee worked with the Human Resources department to see what barriers were in place, voiced the needs and benefits, and kept reminding them about this important change.
There are many projects and tasks a DEI committee can take on. Here are some ideas:
Create a video or module for new staff for DEI training.
Compile resources such as videos, websites, PowerPoint presentations, and handouts. Save them on an internal workplace hard drive, so everyone can benefit from the DEI work.
Organize for a third-party company to provide either on-site or virtual training.
Have DEI members present to other staff members. For example, if the DEI committee discussed asking for pronouns when introducing themselves to patients, a committee member can provide a brief training to their colleagues.
Represent DEI at Staff Meetings
Be a recurring presence. This can help keep you relevant in the mind of other nurses and staff members, build support and momentum for change
Give a five-minute presentation at each staff meeting. Share a relevant quote, give tidbits of information, or share a short video.
Host a monthly book club to discuss relevant books.
Make it fun and engaging by creating an office scavenger hunt! Create a list of inclusive items to find the waiting room or exam room, then send the staff out to find these items. This can be followed by a conversation to discuss what items weren’t present and create an opportunity for change.
Hold a contest to redesign a registration form. Offer a prize to the winner, like a priority parking spot. In my experience, the most successful activities have been those that provide applicable tools for staff.
Place a comment or suggestion box, so staff members who aren’t on the committee can voice their ideas.
The goal of your ongoing presence is to remind other staff of the DEI committee’s important work. You may even inspire others who envision a more inclusive workplace to join! Serving on a DEI committee helps you become a change-maker in medical scrubs; you already advocate for patients, now you can advocate for yourself and your colleagues.
About the author:
Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN (@fertilitydefined) is a registered nurse, freelance nurse writer, and fertility awareness educator. She is the owner of the fertility awareness business Fertility Defined. She has seven years of nursing experience in rehabilitation, communicable disease, maternal child health, and in the surgical-trauma ICU. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years in rural Zambia, where her passion for public health and women’s health grew. She specializes writing on topics such as health literacy, cultural communication, fertility, and women’s health.