A Culture of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benefits Us All
As we, along with the rest of our country, learn of the horrible slayings in Georgia and wait in anticipation for the trial of Derek Chavin to begin in Minnesota, we are committed to joining all those who have raised their voices for action to end the systematic and structural racism. The North Country is not immune from these injustices. Racism and inequality pose real and significant threats to the health of our colleagues, our patients, our families and our communities. As health care leaders, we will do all we can to assure health equity across our region and particularly among our most vulnerable populations.
Every day we witness the power of people working together to affect positive change. Both Alice Hyde Medical Center and CVPH are brimming with people who have dedicated themselves to helping others – to improving lives. So making sure each and every member of our team is supported and works in an environment that places a high value on equity, diversity and inclusion is essential to our success.
As part of The University of Vermont Health Network, both of our organizations have been immersed in important work to create a kinder, more inclusive workplace in which all can thrive. We have teamed up with a group focused on helping organizations investigate, evaluate and see their current culture and ultimately develop an equity-centered environment where our policies, practices and procedures signify our commitment to all of our people and our patients. Part of our learning was to provide employees who have experienced discrimination with a safe and impactful space to share their stories and create a broader awareness of their experiences. Six 1-hour “listening circle” discussions were held at each of our organizations with our Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ+ employees. Here folks shared the challenges they face at work each day. They were asked how well our organizations support their identities, provide a safe, discrimination-free workplace, respond to emergent or existing issues regarding discrimination and/or diversity, and what we must do to improve ourselves and address systemic and overt racism within our institutions. What we learned, while heartbreaking, was valuable and now serves as a focal point for our work to address prejudice and inequality at Alice Hyde Medical Center and CVPH.
The stories and experiences our BIPOC and LGBTQ + employees shared make it clear that structural and systemic racism does exist – both at Alice Hyde and CVPH. Many among us are victims of overt racism. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ employees in our organizations feel invisible, excluded, powerless, disrespected, and voiceless. Many shared that they feel unsafe while at work. They offered examples of patients directing racial slurs towards our clinical employees and how our organizations fail to offer support, protection and a viable outlet to report this abuse. Through these discussions our people painted a picture of organizational cultures characterized by the normalization of “dehumanization, minimization, marginalization and bullying.”
This is unacceptable. Change is imperative. Our organizations, which are woven deeply into the fabric of the communities we serve, will not turn away from this moment and we have set a course of action designed to address the pervasive practices of prejudice that are rooted in our industry, our hospitals and in the communities we serve.
A culture of equity, diversity and inclusion offers our already dynamic teams the opportunity to learn and grow. By fostering a work environment where everyone is empowered to engage, collaborate and contribute, we all benefit.