Fairview Diversity Initiative Improves Workplace and Health Care Provided

At Fairview Health Services, diversity is more than a buzzword. It cuts to the essence of how Fairview provides care and how employees feel about working there.

As a word, diversity describes the differences and similarities that affect how we work and live together. Examples include race, ethnicity, nationality, primary language and accent, age, gender, gender identity, physical capability, sexual orientation, size, spiritual beliefs and tenure.

“Some people choose Fairview as an employer and as a health care provider based on how well we understand and respect these differences,” says David Page, Fairview president and CEO. “Having a diversity balance in our workforce improves our culturally competent care and helps create a welcoming environment for all patients and employees.”

Deepening Commitment

During Fairview Diversity Advancement Week, Oct. 18-22, thousands of employees, patients, families and community members took part in activities, including a Diversity Advocates Summit, unity prayer commemorations, storytelling sessions and diversity learning events.

“We’ve made great progress toward our goal of increasing involvement in and advocacy for diversity among employees and leaders,” says Sue Plaster, Fairview Director of Diversity. “We need to be a business in which we ask ourselves, ‘What can I do on my job?’”

Fairview’s diversity initiative focuses on three areas:

 culturally competent care

 welcoming environment

 workforce diversity

Culturally Competent Care

Fairview’s efforts to provide culturally competent care include:

 understanding patient population by collecting information about primary language, race, ethnicity and spiritual beliefs during the admission process

 asking about cultural regard, linguistic access and discomfort level on patient satisfaction surveys

 advocating for actions based on the data collected

 sponsoring cultural competence education

 translating patient information into various languages

Treating patients from diverse backgrounds can be more complicated, and often requires close teamwork, but is worth the effort, says Sue Bjerke, R.N., who works in Fairview-University’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Bjerke describes a situation earlier this year in which a Hmong couple had a premature baby who was in the NICU for an extended period of time before being taken off life support.

Aside from language barriers, there were also cultural and spiritual concerns. Among those helping the infant’s care providers address those concerns were Rachael Stover-Haney, a Fairview social worker, and Chuck Ceronsky, Fairview Director of Spiritual Health Services, as well as interpreters from Fairview Interpreter Services.

“Rachael and Chuck were incredible,” says Bjerke. “Their ongoing support and communication with the family, including elders from the Hmong community, made all the difference. Because of the rapport and trust established, and because the family was allowed time to come to terms with the need to withdraw life support, the best possible outcome that any of us could have hoped for was achieved.”

On the day that life support was withdrawn, the family gave the baby a ritual washing and dressed him in three layers of clothes to prepare him for the next life. “The grandma held him when he died, and the family seemed very much at peace after it was over,” says Bjerke.

A Welcoming Environment

Many factors go into creating a welcoming environment for patients, visitors and employees. Examples of work being done in this area include:

 highlighting diversity at new employee orientations

 conducting welcoming audits to gather information about the impressions people get when they visit Fairview facilities

 creating welcome signs in various languages for entry and waiting room areas

 commemorating winter holidays that respect many faith traditions

Earlier this year, Fairview solicited the professional feedback of long-time patient Jenny Peterson, who became a quadriplegic 21 years ago, to find out what people with disabilities may experience at Fairview-University Medical Center.

As part of a multiphase accessibility audit, Peterson toured both campuses in her wheelchair, interviewed employees and patients and made recommendations. John Marshall, Fairview-University Facility Services Director, accompanied Peterson on the tours. “It was eye-opening to see how the place looks from a wheelchair—such as how bumps in sidewalks and mats affect movement,” says Marshall. “We’ve been making adjustments that Jenny recommended.”

“Over the years, I’ve watched Fairview-University make dramatic changes to the campus to empower people with disabilities,” says Peterson.

Workplace Diversity

Among the efforts in this area are:

 enriching leadership diversity

 advocating for diversity in recruitment, retention, promotion, development and mentoring

 sponsoring diversity education opportunities

Fairview has a systemwide Diversity Council with 43 members, as well as six site-based diversity teams to further diversity initiatives at a local level.

Nearly 50 Fairview leaders have set diversity business goals. One of the goals set by Gary Strong, Southwest Metro care system president, is to have a diverse pool of applicants at the interview stage for every leadership position.

“I believe diversity is important because you can never be sure you have the very best people unless you include everyone in your applicant pool,” says Strong. “We’ve increased diversity among our leadership group at Fairview Southdale from less than 1 percent to 10 to 12 percent.”

Having a diverse workforce has an impact on care. “I think it greatly improves care,” says Strong. “We’re here to serve all, and our community is made up of many backgrounds. It gives us a better understanding of people’s unique perspectives.”

To learn more about Fairview Health Services, an integrated health system with more than 18,500 employees delivering exceptional care and superior health outcomes in hospitals, clinics, patient homes, rehab facilities and more throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin, visit www.fairview.org.