Last 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.
According to Diversity Best Practices, from 2015 to 2030, the US population is projected to grow by 12 percent, from about 321 million to 359 million. Most of that growth will come from minority and immigrant populations.
In order to better serve this growing population there needs to be more diverse healthcare professionals in leadership roles that mirror a culturally competent workforce.
Modern Healthcare covered the industry’s lack of diversity in the C-suite mentioning, "Only 14% of hospital board members and 9% of CEOs are minorities, according to the most recent study by the American Hospital Association's Institute for Diversity and Health Equity—the same percentages as in 2013."
They created a survey that asked, "What do you perceive as the top three barriers for diversity Nurse leaders in advancing their careers to the executive level?"
The answers were:
Lack of equal access to inclusion.
Lack of mentorship and sponsorship.
Lack of opportunities for leader experiences.
Here are some ways to promote diversity in healthcare leadership.
In order to destroy these barriers, leaders of all backgrounds and ethnicities must first understand and accept that these barriers do exist. Those leaders can take that knowledge and their own personal cultural insights and use them to effectively address disparities within their own communities.
Mentoring programs are extremely important and should be implemented ASAP. As in any business, Nurses need leaders to help guide and inspire them. Representation of diverse Nurses in leadership positions creates positive influence and confidence in other Nurses looking to achieve leadership goals in the future.
Recruiting diverse candidates at every level increases representation in management, but also develops a diverse workforce and future pool of qualified candidates.
Utilize pro-diversity initiatives to reduce social isolation. Hire a Diversity & Inclusion Officer and appoint a diversity committee. There should be a diversity action plan, diversity training, social gatherings, and resource groups.
In healthcare, trust and representation matters. More diversity in healthcare leadership roles will create better patient outcomes.
Major health care giants like Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital have pledged to improve diversity recruitment of health workers. Reports showed a lack of diversity in hospitals and care discrepancies among patients. The hospitals plan to increase resources, hire executives focused on improving diversity and inclusion in their organizations, and more.
The lack of diversity in the healthcare workforce can impact patient care. Minority patients are more likely to seek out and follow advice from health professionals who look, sound, eat, worship and share the same cultural customs and values like they do.
The U.S. population overall is changing and quite rapidly. In 2010, the number of residents age 5 and older speaking a language other than English at home had climbed 158% to 59.5 million from 23.1 million in 1980, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2044, more than half the nation is expected to be made up of minority races or groups, according to a 2015 Census Bureau report.
Yet, statistics show healthcare isn't keeping pace with population changes. Minorities made up just 14% of hospital boards and only 11% of executive leadership positions in 2015, according to a survey from the American Hospital Association's Institute for Diversity in Health Management. This disparity exists even though minorities represent roughly 30% to 35% of patients in hospitals.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute officials told Becker's Hospital Review they plan to hire a leader for diversity programs, and will require all faculty and administration to complete a bias awareness workshop, among other initiatives, as part of the institution's 2018 strategic plan.
Dianne Austin, workforce diversity program manager at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Healthcare Dive, "Mass General has an orientation where new employees attend a program on diversity and inclusion and learn about various resources available to employees, such as a citizenship program, careers days and school admissions officers. There are also multiple staff committees focused on improving diversity and inclusion."
Akron Children's Hospital supports a program that aims to improve Nursing diversity. The program's plan is to increase the number of interns in the program and provide tuition support during their senior year of college. The hope is that program participants will return to Akron Children's after graduation to begin their Nursing career.
"Nursing diversity is vital to ensuring a positive experience for our patients," said William Considine, CEO of Akron Children's Hospital. "Not only does this program provide a valuable educational experience, it also helps Akron Children's recruit more prepared Nurses and helps our workforce reflect the diversity of the patients, families and communities we serve."
UC Health intends to contribute $1.5 million to create University of Cincinnati scholarships designed to diversify the medical profession. The hospital system hopes the scholarships will help all local health systems diversify their workforce when hiring doctors, Nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians.
“We know through recent research that underrepresented adults in Cincinnati believe their race negatively impacts their treatment from medical professionals,” said Dr. Rick Lofgren, CEO of UC Health. “This investment is a step to improve health care for all of our patients and to foster a health care workforce that reflects the diversity of our population.”
Diversity & Inclusion initiatives can be difficult to sustain, but commitment to increasing D&I at all levels of your organization will bring new perspectives and values to your hospital/health system, which can help decrease health disparities across the board. Bravo to the healthcare leaders that are seriously acting on their D&I initiatives! Do you see progress in this area where you work or teach?
Meet FNU's New Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Maria Valentin-Welch, DNP, MPH, CDP, CNM, FACNM.
Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is seeing yet another one of its diversity initiatives realized through Dr. Maria Valentin-Welch in her new role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Maria’s new position, which she assumed on October 1, 2017, is designed to guide the institution on matters of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Dr. Valentin-Welch has over 30 years of teaching experience, including her role at Frontier as an assistant professor since 2013. Through extensive work with marginalized and underserved populations, Maria has garnered several awards and accolades. She completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) at FNU in 2015. Her DNP capstone project was a national online tutorial pilot program for ethnically diverse student nurse-midwives.
Frontier spoke with Maria about her passion for diversity and inclusion, how she will strategize those initiatives at FNU, and the challenges she expects to face in her inaugural post as CDIO.
What has been your career path so far and how has it led you to your current role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer?
“A medical encounter shaped my understanding of the need for diversity in the medical world. There was a man that was restrained; he was trying to pull his IV because he was trying to get to his true hospital. I advocated for this man, explained the situation…I was told, ‘Well, we don’t have a translator, so we didn’t understand him,’ which was unacceptable. We found a translator, and the man proceeded to have his IV removed and was transferred to the hospital where he belonged. This experience really taught me how to be a voice for the voiceless, and to be an advocate for those who need advocacy.”
How has your professional background influenced your passion for diversity and inclusion?
“While working with homeless pregnant women, I felt like I wanted to do more with my hands, and that was my inspiration, my calling, into nurse-midwifery. Also my love for education has influenced my passion for diversity and inclusion. I have always been a teacher in my heart. I have taught and precepted many students…teaching is in my blood.
Another changing encountered occurred during my first visit at Frontier. In 2012 I came to Frontier’s Diversity Impact Weekend for the Pride Program as a keynote speaker, and there I not only fell in love with Frontier, but I also fell in love with the students who encouraged me to go back to school and go back to teaching. Now, I am an alumni of Frontier; I went to their doctorate program, and my capstone project was on tutoring and mentoring students of color. So, all of this was instrumental in bringing me to this point in my life.”
Learn more about Maria’s journey to Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer in this video.
Where did your passion for diversity and inclusion begin?
“My passion for diversity and inclusion began really by being raised in New York City. It was a wonderful, diverse area to be brought up in, and it taught me that we are more alike than we are different. Another encounter in my life that really brought passion of diversity in my life was being moved from New York to Boston, Massachusetts in the seventies during the busing times. A historical era with a lot of racism and hatred in Massachusetts which has definitely improved since. However, that time period was really sad and showed me how ugly division can be.
A school incident took place that taught me that I am neither white, nor black, nor ‘other.’ I am Maria, and no one can label me. I am myself and that goes for every single person; we are all each personally unique and individual.”
Learn more about Maria’s passion for diversity and inclusion in this video.
How do you define diversity and inclusion at Frontier Nursing University?
“When our differences come together in a respectful and appreciative way for what each of us bring to the table, that’s when we reach diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion in a nutshell is the power of unity, and FNU will be more powerful for including it in its strategic plan.
Diversity is like a beautiful tapestry made up of each and every one of us. We are all different in so many ways, beautiful ways. However, when our differences are united in a positive way, we create a powerful, enhanced atmosphere that otherwise would be lacking due to missing parts. So, diversity and inclusion is the glue of unity.”
Learn more about how Maria defines diversity and inclusion in this video.
What are you most excited about with your new position?
“I am most excited about the programs I hope to establish for students. Initially, these programs that I’ll be implementing will be pilot programs for our nurse workforce diversity grant students. We’ll work out the kinks and basically expand them to all students.
I’m also excited about bringing diversity to the forefront of Frontier. Our Community of Inquiry model will be stronger for it.”
What strategies do you feel will have the most positive impact on the FNU community?
“The strategies that I feel will have the most positive impact on Frontier are building these excellent student services, as well as diversity and inclusion training strategies and tactics to enhance our courses by threading diversity and inclusion issues along the way. We want to thread the subject matter even further throughout the curriculum. We will be stronger individually and as a whole because of the introductions of these plans.”
Learn more about Maria’s planned strategies as CDIO in this video.
What are the biggest challenges that you will face in your new role?
“Uniting folks while our nation is receiving messages of division and promoting actions of division and lack of compassion – to me, that will be my biggest challenge. However, I feel midwifery and nursing have always held an important role in not only listening to people, but also advocating for what is right. Frontier is better and stronger than the division being promoted across the nation.”
Learn more about the challenges Maria anticipates in her new role in this video.
What is a fun fact about you?
“My intersectionality is a fun fact. What is intersectionality? Intersectionality is a diversity term that basically explains that an individual has many hats that they bring to the table, not just what you see in front of you. So I’m not just a latina, female professor of a certain age. I’m also a mother, a wife, grandmother, and – here’s the fun fact – I’m even a great-grandmother of three great-grandchildren!”
Hyden, KY -- Frontier Nursing University (FNU), a graduate school offering nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner programs through distance education, has hired Dr. Maria Valentin-Welch, DNP, MPH, CNM, FACNM, as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer to lead the University on matters of equity, diversity and inclusion. Dr. Valentin-Welch is a certified nurse-midwife and has served as a course coordinator at FNU since 2013. She will assume the new role on October 1, 2017.
FNU’s chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO) will lead the development of a vision and strategy that champions the importance of a diverse and inclusive environment that values and supports all members of the University community. The addition of the CDIO position is the most recent of a number of diversity initiatives implemented as part of FNU’s strategic plan to heighten the focus on diversity and inclusion for all faculty, staff and students. The CDIO will serve on the executive team along with the president, dean, chief operations officer and the executive vice president for finance and facilities.
“Research tells us that in order to incorporate an effective culture of diversity and inclusion, you must have top administrators at the highest level in the organization leading the charge,” says FNU President Dr. Susan Stone. “We have done so much to foster a culture that values diversity and inclusion; this was the natural next step for our University.”
Dr. Valentin-Welch has worked on diversity and inclusion efforts throughout her career. One of her first assignments at FNU will be leading the implementation of a four-year program to increase the recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, made possible by a HRSA Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant totaling $1,998,000 that was awarded to FNU earlier this year.
Dr. Valentin-Welch joined the Frontier Nursing University faculty four years ago and has served as a co-chair of FNU’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She will be moving to Kentucky in 2018 to join other administrative staff at FNU’s campus, which will be relocating from Lexington to Versailles next year.
“I am very excited to get started in this new role because focusing on diversity and inclusion will only strengthen Frontier’s roots, as well as our mission and vision,” said Dr. Valentin-Welch. “The birthplace of nurse-midwifery in the United States stems from the roots of Frontier Nursing University. Therefore, I am humbled and honored to become FNU’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer. Together, hand in hand, we will bring our FNU Community to higher heights.”
Additionally, Dr. Valentin-Welch will offer leadership support to FNU’s Diversity PRIDE Program which has been in place since 2010 and was designed to promote diversity in nursing and midwifery by recruiting more underrepresented students. She will also focus on collaborative opportunities with other organizations to facilitate the goals of diversity and inclusion at FNU.
“I believe our founding mother, Mary Breckinridge, is smiling down at Frontier as we open this new historical chapter… a chapter made up of many different pages creating a wonderfully diverse and inclusive book,” said Dr. Valentin-Welch.
Chief 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.
"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:
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!