DiversityNursing Blog

The Growing Role of Chief Diversity Officer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Feb 16, 2021 @ 12:34 PM

CDOLast year, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) hires grew by 84%, making it the fastest growing C-suite title, according to LinkedIn.

There has been a national wave of concern about racial inequities, especially in healthcare, with the arrival of the COVID pandemic.

Many healthcare organizations are increasing their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. Leaders are addressing racial health disparities and finding ways to improve patient care for all. Part of their efforts include establishing a Chief Diversity Officer role.

Winifred King is Cook Children’s first ever Chief Diversity Officer. King said, “It is hard to put into words what this decision and investment means to people of color and anyone who has ever felt different or excluded. For all of us who may have experienced inequities and mistreatment in our lifetimes, it is comforting to be a part of an organization that accepts our differences, our failures, and is willing to look inward and truly examine what is at the heart of our culture.”

“COVID-19 is amplifying health disparities in communities of color,” said Quita Highsmith, the Chief Diversity Officer of biotech company, Genentech. “It is now time for us to stop tiptoeing around it and start thinking about what we are going to do.”

CDOs are responsible for addressing these healthcare disparities. They are developing strategies to promote diversity, inclusivity, and equitable cultures throughout their organization.

Education and awareness are playing a key role in improving health outcomes for diverse communities. The CDO coordinates efforts internally to provide staff with resources and courses, such as cultural competence training as well as finding ways externally to work with the community they serve.

In addition, the CDO helps to create recruitment programs that ensures their DEI message is reaching diverse candidates. As a member of the C-suite, the CDO can communicate to all leaders that diversity recruitment, for all position levels, should be a priority.

Studies suggest diversity in healthcare leadership enhances quality of care, quality of life in the workplace, community relations, and the ability to affect community health status.

The CDO helps to define, educate, and communicate the hospital/health system’s culture and DEI message to its staff, patient population and community.

Joseph Hill, was the first Chief Diversity Officer at Jefferson Health. He requested they establish focus groups with patients to better understand their expectations and view of the system. With the information provided by the focus groups, they found the areas that needed improvements.

HCA Healthcare created the BRAVE Conversations program, an ‘outside the box’ platform designed to facilitate interactive, inclusive, innovative and safe ways for employees to share their thoughts on issues that may be difficult to discuss.

It is imperative that leadership is committed to their DEI mission. Without it, the CDO cannot wave a magic wand and transform an entire organization overnight. It takes commitment, communication both internally and externally, resources, time, and effort from all areas of the health system.

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Topics: Diversity and Inclusion, CDO, chief diversity officer, hospital diversity, diversity in healthcare, health disparities, diversity recruitment, racial health disparities

3 Ways a CDO Can Help a Hospital Workforce

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Thu, Sep 22, 2016 @ 03:33 PM

embracediversity.pngChief Diversity Officers can make a hospital a more welcoming place for employees and the patient's they serve. It takes many steps for a CDO to make that possible. Continue reading to learn more about how CDO's can help your healthcare organization. 

Workplace harassment complaints. Recruiting a diverse workforce. Cultural competency training. These are matters that traditionally fall under HR, but healthcare organizations are increasingly relying on professionals with specialized skills to work on these sensitive and important issues.

Enter the chief diversity officer, or CDO.

As the country grows not only more ethnically diverse but more diverse in personal beliefs, regional origin and identification, and disability status, the demand for leaders who specialize in creating dialogues between people with differences will increase, says Oliver B. Tomlin, III, senior partner at search firm Witt/Kieffer and founding member of National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. He has assisted with several CDO searches.

Below are several functions a CDO might play to make a hospital a more welcoming place both to workers and the community they serve:

1. Make Sure Everyone is Heard

Many of us can remember attending a party or other event where we didn't fit in, possibly because of differences between ourselves and others.

A CDO specializes in being the person who makes sure workers don't have to feel uncomfortable about what makes them unique, and that they can bring their "whole selves" to work, says Deborah L. Plummer, PhD, vice chancellor and chief diversity officer at University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Healthcare.

"If everyone feels they can bring their whole self to work and they feel like differences are respected, it can make the workplace richer and stronger," Plummer says.

"Then, we are able to come together and work in diverse teams, and are able to solve challenges with our collective wisdom."

2. Teach Awareness

What's the next step that will lead toward improved patient satisfaction and both clinician and worker retention? Teaching the workforce to be sensitive to and accepting of the differences that are inherent to a diverse organization or in a diverse community.   

Sometimes it's not always easy to gain the trust of people when there are differences involved, especially in light of healthcare disparities members of minority groups often experience, says Tomlin, but educating a workforce can help.

Plummer suggests offering regular inclusion events, hosting employee and community research groups, and familiarizing hospital leadership with hot topics in the workforce and within the community.

She also suggests that CDOs organize training sessions around current topics, such as:

  • LGBT-related issues
  • Sexual harassment
  • Building an inclusive workforce
  • Cultural competency education

3. Devise and Implement Inclusion Strategies

Diversity and inclusion aren't easy topics to tackle, says Plummer. "There has to be someone who gets up every morning thinking about the complexity of these differences."

A CDO can fit that bill.

Plummer makes it clear that she believes HR is "necessary and great function. [It keeps] the trains running." But appointing a leader to specialize in diversity makes sense.

"I can say that the space of diversity is more about people strategy and management, while HR is about the employee, and their employment relationship to the organization," she says.

A CDO will be able to prioritize diversity matters above all else; these hot topics will have their full attention. Far from being just another C-suiter, the CDO has potential to be a mediator, a teacher, an outreach coordinator, and someone who helps make your hospital a more comfortable place for everyone.

If you have any questions about Chief Diversity Officers, Diversity and Inclusion, or just a general question, please ask one of our Nurse Leaders by clicking below! 

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Topics: Diversity and Inclusion, CDO, chief diversity officer

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