• Article
  • November 4, 2020

Start a Hospital-Wide Conversation on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Children's hospital leaders share what they are doing to assess DEI in their institutions and identify the steps needed to make progress.

During a discussion exploring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at the 2020 Annual Leadership Conference, leaders from three children's hospitals shared their organizational journeys to become more diverse and equitable institutions. Three common themes emerged during their presentations and panel discussion: be intentional, listen and communicate clearly.

Be intentional

Cindy Bo, senior vice president, Delaware Valley Strategy and Business Development at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children said the events of 2020 led the children's hospital to start asking what kind of organization they want to become into the future. The key was being intentional about posing the question and implementing a thoughtful strategy that wasn't a standalone initiative, but instead woven into the work that the hospital does every day.

As a result, Nemours implemented the organization-wide DRIVE strategy, representing diversity, anti-racism, inclusion, value and equity. Under DRIVE, a task force of more than 70 people acted as the voices to push the strategy forward through listening and action.

Listen often, without judgement and to everyone

At Connecticut Children's, Larry Milan serves as senior vice president, chief human resource officer. Milan emphasized that while the children's hospital has always been committed to DEI, 2020 heightened leadership's commitment to addressing these challenges and having the difficult conversations. Milan recommends leaders take the listening position first, inviting large and small groups to voice concerns, ideas and opinions on DEI. Some leaders—and team members—will be uncomfortable, but it's important to let them know that is OK.

At Nemours, Bo acknowledged a fear of not hearing all voices because some employees don't want to be engaged in this conversation. Either they're not ready or not comfortable in large town hall formats that are often the forum for DEI conversations.

Leadership needs to find ways to draw out those unrepresented voices and make individuals comfortable representing independent thoughts, even those that may not follow popular opinions. Milan says the most important thing is to open up the dialogue and listen with compassion.

Communicate clearly

At Children's Minnesota, Jennifer Olson, chief strategy officer, says communities are demanding children's hospitals play a role in improving DEI. Olson says the hospital set out to identify a system-wide strategy on DEI, but initially the intention wasn't communicated effectively. Many staff members saw the hospital's listening initiatives as a short-term project when conversation around systemic racism became a hot topic. Olson says it was a lesson for leadership that a better communications plan was needed to show staff not only why this was important, what they were hearing in the community and then what they were going to do about it.

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