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Cultivating a Sense of Belonging for All
Cultivating a Sense of Belonging for All
August 31, 2020
Amber Woodard and Terri DeWees
It has been said that true belonging “doesn’t require you to change who you are, it requires you to be who you are.” Although diversity and inclusion are foundational requirements for equity in the workplace, a sense of belonging is, perhaps, the most vital component of a person’s ability to exist freely and live authentically in a place where we spend so much of our time: at work. Belonging is vital to our identity and, when we feel a sense of belonging, we are happier, more engaged, more present, and less scared to be our true selves. For members of the LGBTQIA community, belonging is especially important, yet it is not always safe to be who we are in the work place.
Two years ago, under the compassionate and affirming leadership of our Health Equity and Human Experience Department, we set out on a journey to ensure that NHRMC was a safe place for LGBTQIA employees by cultivating a thriving Employee Affinity Group (EAG) that offers a sense of community and belonging for some of the most vulnerable members of our workforce. STAR, our EAG, was named in honor of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, an organization led by Black transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera that focused on providing shelter and community for members of the transgender community. Not only did these two leaders support some of the most vulnerable in our community, they lived a life of activism in the pursuit of equality for all LGBTQIA people. Our hope as an EAG is to embody the spirit and humanity of these revolutionary leaders.
To assess our organizational baseline, we participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) survey which is a national benchmarking tool that evaluates the policies and practices of healthcare facilities related to the equity and inclusion of LGBTQIA patients. Of the organizations that participated in this assessment, NHRMC was the lowest scoring organization in North Carolina. We had work to do.
So STAR got to work. We reviewed policies and procedures, we engaged Human Resources, we partnered with other organizations in the community, represented NHRMC at local pride events and worked with our marketing department on branding and internal and external visibility. We trained executive leaders and updated new employee orientation materials. We implemented an Ally team, revised our patient advocate signs, and updated our Electronic Health Record to better support the health and care of our LGBTQIA patients. This work was grueling and emotionally draining, but we did it. Together.
It is with great pride and celebration that we share with you our new designation of “Top Performer” by the Human Rights Campaign. With the help of our friends and colleagues throughout the organization, we increased our score from 25/100 to 85/100 and are now recognized nationally as an organization committed to diversity, inclusion, and belonging for our patients AND our employees. Participating in the HEI survey has allowed us to set measurable goals related to NHRMC’s mission and vision and we are so proud of the collaboration we have witnessed across the organization in support of this work.
As we think about what’s next, we must pause to reflect on the intersection of those within the LGBTQIA community and other marginalized groups. We hope that you will stand with us in ensuring that NHRMC intentionally supports safety, community, and belonging for all people within AND outside of our walls. Our work is unfinished, yet we commit to the pursuit of a day when every single one of us feels safe at work, and has a space and a community in which we are free to be exactly who we are.
Amber Woodard and Terri DeWees are registered nurses at NHRMC who co-chair the STAR employee resource group.
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