Podcast recap: Diversity and inclusion—Educate, research, and do the work
by Linnea Archibald
In many ways, 2020 was a year of reckoning for the United States and the world as a whole. While the COVID-19 pandemic revealed ways in which our public health initiatives need reforming, the wrongful deaths of several Black and other minority individuals at the hands of law enforcement, caught on camera for the world to see, exposed non-medical systemic ailments underlying our society.
As an organization, ACDIS stands wholeheartedly with the American Public Health Association’s statement that racism is a public health crisis. While the CDI profession appears to be fairly diverse in terms of ethnic, racial, and professional backgrounds, ACDIS wants to help ensure CDI is not just diverse, but truly inclusive. (For more information on this topic, read the article on p. 6.)
“[We need to] understand the difference between being a diverse organization and being an inclusive organization, because there's a huge difference between the two,” said Angelica Naylor, MBA, BSN, RN, CCDS, a CDI consultant and manager with CorroHealth, based in Plano, Texas, on the October 7 episode of the ACDIS Podcast: Talking CDI.
While diversity may convey the mix of backgrounds represented in a department or at an organization, inclusivity means that those individuals feel welcomed, valued, and understood, rather than feeling like a lone voice in the department.
One way to begin the journey from diversity to inclusivity is to help organizations and individual CDI professionals understand the stories of our minority members and their peers.
In her own experience, Naylor said she has often been the only minority presence in a room, particularly when it comes to leadership and physician meetings. Part of this disparity comes from an organization’s hiring practices and regional demographics. (For tips on hiring diversely, check out the article on p. 10.)
“I have noticed that ACDIS as an organization is more welcoming of diversity than CDI as a profession,” she said. “Legally, you can’t deny anyone access or anyone employment of your organization or facility, but we do know that some biases and stereotypes are transferred over into the hiring process.”
In order for leaders, especially leaders who are not part of a minority group, to foster an inclusive and diverse workplace, Naylor suggested that they seek out education and carefully tune themselves into the experiences of others.
“The best advice that I can give to an individual or an organization is to educate yourself. Do the research. Do the work. Take time for introspection. Become aware of your own behaviors, biases, your word choices,” she said.
Individuals from minority groups who find themselves in workplaces that are not inclusive—even if unintentionally so—shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when they hear or see something that offends them or makes others in the department feel unwelcomed or undervalued. According to Naylor, this can be a difficult task, especially for those coming from a clinical role who may have been conditioned to fear retaliation for speaking up.
“I've been in [non-bedside] roles for so long, I don't have any reservation for correcting someone on the inappropriate communication or inappropriate comment,” she said. “It is a challenge to tell others to have that same confidence, because I do understand the fear of retaliation, but I would challenge everyone [to do so].”
While those from minority groups should feel empowered to speak out against discriminatory behavior, everyone has a role in stopping the behavior from continuing. Even if you don’t consider yourself racist, failing to stand up against racist behavior from others perpetuates the environment, Naylor said. You may not hold the biases yourself, but it’s crucial to advocate and speak up for those who are targets of bias.
“You must use your word of mouth, written expression, or other platform to bring attention and awareness to racism. You must speak out against and speak out to correct other racist behavior. As the adage goes, if you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” she said. Being anti-racist is like being a whistleblower, Naylor continued. “If you're watching someone else do wrong or commit a crime, then you may not be committing the same crime or committing the same action, but how are you really helping if you watch, sit back and observe, and do nothing about it?”
Beyond individual CDI professionals and departments, ACDIS formed a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to advocate for broader industrywide change. Naylor, who is a member of the task force, said in the podcast episode that the strength of the group comes from its diversity—it includes members from all over the country, different racial and ethnic groups, and different backgrounds. Their first project has been a survey to take the pulse of the CDI industry when it comes to diversity and perceptions of inclusivity.
That data will help the association and individual organizations set a benchmark and identify ways they can grow and evolve. “We need the data to facilitate and carry out our mission,” Naylor said, “[and] to ensure that all races and ethnicities feel welcome, all are afforded the opportunities for growth and expansion and retention in CDI.”