Inclusion: Fostering a sense of belonging

February 4, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees, ,

Simple acts of respect between coworkers can breed a sense of belonging and an inclusive environment where every voice is heard and everyone can thrive.

Here are just a few examples of how small gestures can have a great impact at Michigan Medicine, bringing our core value of Inclusion to life.

Nurse Meghan Banfield with her study guide.

A TEAM THAT LEARNS TOGETHER: Recently, the nurses on the 5A orthopaedic and surgical care unit at University Hospital needed to learn the new skill of reading telemetry strips. This allows them to determine cardiac rhythms of patients and how to treat rhythms deemed abnormal. To make the classes and certification process easier, Meghan Banfield, R.N., developed a study guide and shared it with the entire unit to help others through the process.

“I’m a visual learner,” said Jesse Gray, another R.N. on 5A. “Meghan broke it all down into easy-to-understand charts so we could compare the different treatments. It was really helpful for us.” 

Thanks to Meghan’s inclusive nature, staff members are now using the guide as a reference while caring for moderate care patients.

RAISING BLACK VOICES: The Black Voices Resource Group is one of the newest groups supported by OHEI which provides feedback to Michigan Medicine leaders on how to foster inclusion and collaboration. This group, accessible to all Michigan Medicine staff, faculty and learners, is centered on the Black employee experience to help increase awareness and knowledge on issues impacting the Black community.

According to the group’s co-chair, Business Analyst Sr. and DEI lead Steve Vinson, the time had come for Black Voices.

Steve Vinson

“We had discussions about creating this group prior to 2020, but the racial unrest due to continued social injustices, the unfortunate and high-profile deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and then the protests in solidarity last summer all served as the impetus for moving forward and planting the Black Voices Resource Group seed,” Vinson said.

LaTonya D. Berryhill

LaTonya D. Berryhill, also a group co-chair, DEI implementation lead and operations manager for the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research, considers the group a “brave space for Black employees to engage in authentic dialogue.

“Often Black employees are the only or one of a few Black team members in their department,” she said. “Through this group, we have been able to meet and connect with people from across the institution. The group utilizes professional and social connections to leverage career development opportunities, enhance support systems, increase mentoring and foster shared learning.” 

The feedback the group provides to leadership is most critical because Black employees experience bias, devaluation and discrimination more often — and these instances often go unreported and unaddressed. This may be due to a variety of reasons, including Black employees not being sure how to report, having a fear of retaliation, having not been validated in the past after speaking up, or not feeling like they have equitable opportunities for career growth and advancement.

The feedback has paid off, according to Vinson: “We have definitely been heard. For example, the Anti-Racism Oversight Committee (AROC) co-chairs, Dr. David Miller and Phyllis Blackman have been great about intentionally providing space at our committee meetings for BVRG feedback. We’re optimistic that this feedback will lead to sustained culture change.”

The group’s 2021 initiatives include mentorship programs with Black leaders, creating more networking opportunities, expanding ally membership, and providing meeting access for all job families and job roles. Meetings occur on the third Friday of every month from 11 a.m. – noon.

For more information, contact blackvoices@umich.edu.

Ellen Hammond, right, with her student, Samantha Deering.

INCLUDING STUDENTS IN THE EQUATION: Physical therapists within the organization can volunteer to train incoming students in their profession. Ellen Hammond, an acute PT at University Hospital, demonstrates her inclusive nature by taking on students every year.

“This is a teaching hospital. That’s what it’s all about. That’s our mission,” Hammond said. “You never stop learning. Every patient presents differently and your care has to be flexible. I believe that is the most important thing to learn and the most important thing I could teach anyone.”

A PLACE WHERE ALL VOICES ARE HEARD: Medical records, discharge teaching information, orders, consent forms, education materials, signage, flyers, and even menus are translated by Michigan Medicine’s 25-person translation team to make sure patients’ and their families’ needs are met and understood. Most translators are staff interpreters working on translation projects between their interpreting appointments. Last year alone, 445 documents were translated, but that doesn’t include their support of the new custom-designed, Spanish patient portal launched this past December.

According to Interpreter and Translation Coordinator Megumi Segawa, the content not only provides accurate patient information, but also a sense of comfort and belonging while visiting the health system.

“It’s human nature to feel more welcome when someone is there to provide you with information that fills in the gaps,” Segawa said. “For a foreign language speaker, when everything is in English, they are feeling overwhelmed and worried. They cannot fully express themselves, which makes it more difficult to give feedback or raise a concern. We hope by providing more translations, they will be more comfortable with having active communications with their providers.”

The team’s biggest challenge is making sure patients and providers know where to find these materials.  For more information, go to the Clearinghouse Patient Education website or the Health Information Management Page.

Clinical social workers with patients and families at a pre-COVID hockey event.

BRINGING INCLUSION INTO THE SCHOOLS: Clinical social workers Jacinta Florek, Brittany Carey and Kirby Paterson support more than 1,400 diabetes patients in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital inpatient clinic. So it’s not surprising that school advocacy comes with the territory. However, when they felt Michigan schools were not doing enough to be inclusive for children with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, they went beyond their usual duties at Michigan Medicine and became strong advocates for patients and families.

The team shows up and advocates directly with school staff on behalf of, and in partnership with, the families at care plan/IHP/504/IEP meetings. They also joined the Supporting Students with Diabetes in Schools Initiative, to support ambitious goals such as developing annual staff training for all schools across the state, advocating for more nurses in schools, standardizing pediatric diabetes medical plans and centralizing resources and documents to guide diabetes care in the school setting. The three have also been presenting trainings throughout the state to educate school nurses regarding factors to consider beyond the medical care of a student with diabetes. 

“Diabetes is a day-in, day-out, never-get-a-break part of life, and it can be very complex and challenging,” said Florek. “We have a strengths-based approach and focus on supporting and empowering families, while helping our colleagues and team members to consider the social determinants of health and other factors which play a role in the lives of families and pose barriers to managing a chronic illness.”  

CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION: In June 2019, Michigan Medicine experienced a racially-sensitive incident which challenged the community. To offer support during this difficult time, OHEI partnered with the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience and Spiritual Care to host the first-ever Community Conversation. Hundreds of staff, faculty and learners joined the conversation during that first open forum and the events have continued ever since.

At first monthly, the conversations are now held on a weekly basis and address a range of topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. To help reduce spread of COVID-19, OHEI has been offering a re-formatted Community Conversations approach that is virtual. The team felt it was important to continue to carve out space for dialogue, provide support for one another, promote self-care and share valuable resources. Sessions have included: Psychological Safety, Decoding the Language of Anti-Racism, Social Determinants of Health, and open dialogues in the form of Community Check-ins. 

A pre-tour planning meeting for the security team.

BRINGING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER: Members of the security team, led by Associate Director Darric Terry, along with administrative staff members from both the Canton Health Center and the Brighton Center for Specialty Care, recently reached out to police officers in both communities to provide tours and share knowledge. The goal was two-fold: to be prepared for any future emergencies and to get to know each other better. 

According to Terry, “Trust and training goes a long way toward reducing risk and anxiety, and creating a safe, empowered, prepared health care environment. When we build these relationships with law enforcement, it not only improves safety, but it makes people feel safe.”  

Plans are underway to expand the program to all offsite locations across the state of Michigan.

Wish to share a story about inclusion? Contact Headlines@med.umich.edu.

RELATED STORIES