WellStar Health System

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Dr. Mary Chatman, EVP/President Kennestone and Windy Hill Hospitals

WHAT IS YOUR MISSION FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION?

To enhance the health and well-being of every person we serve.

  • Our DE&I strategy – that encompasses workforce diversity, culture of inclusion, cultural competence, health equity, and community engagement and supplier diversity – has been the foundation for identifying and implementing resonant initiatives to drive trust and engagement across our organization, and continues to be the framework for our path forward.
  • We are having more frequent, courageous conversations about what it truly means to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization, and to exemplify DE&I in our daily culture in palpable ways.
  • Our workforce reflects the communities we serve. Having a workforce that looks like our patient populations not only engenders trust, it builds a bridge to all the people we serve inside and outside the walls of our facilities. We remain committed to attracting, recruiting, and retaining top talent across all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, and orientations.
  • And lastly, we continue to listen to all of our constituents so we can explore new actions we should implement, in addition to our current initiatives.

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY? 

  • Early COVID-19 response required us to pause many of our services and look to telehealth to deliver care. After reinstating services, we then had to balance regular care visits with ongoing community spread of COVID-19 – and now we are looking ahead and planning for flu and respiratory virus season occurring alongside COVID-19.
  • We also remain focused on supporting our communities and team members through times of unrest and uncertainty, providing tools and compassionate care, as we have over the course of our long history as a not-for-profit health system.
    • This hard and important work has also led us to be named a Great Place to Work: Top 100 Best Workplaces for Diversity for the past few years.
    • We launched our Inclusion Council in 2018, which facilitates discussion, active listening, and problem-solving around diversity, equity and inclusion across our system.
  • Our journey and commitment to developing team member trust and engagement, along with diversity, equity and inclusion, has been the foundation of our more recent initiatives, such as:
    • 55 listening sessions held across our system to promote courageous, safe conversations among team members about race and racism in light of recent events, and to inform our strategy moving forward.
    • In addition to these listening sessions, we also provided our leaders with toolkits to facilitate team member discussions and to support our colleagues through challenging moments.
    • And, in recent months, we have focused on expanding our DE&I strategy with the creation of a 24-member advisory council that will help define our path forward

While our response has consistently transitioned to meet the needs of the moment, our commitment to care for everyone who comes through our doors has not wavered. Our core values of serving with compassion, pursuing excellence, and honoring every voice have become even more vital in recent months.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION INITIATIVES THAT HAVE ALLOWED YOUR ORGANIZATION TO HAVE IMPACT IN BOTH THE COMMUNITY AND IN THE WORKPLACE; THAT SUPPORTED DRIVING CHANGE AND/OR EQUITY.

We recognize that many of the health inequities in the communities we serve are driven by social disparities, and this has certainly been exacerbated by the pandemic. As a not-for-profit health system, we serve all patients, no matter what their circumstance is. But we also recognize that we have a role and responsibility to help address those inequities at a grassroots level.

  • We have an incredibly active Population Health organization that does important work at a patient-specific level in the communities we serve, by identifying and supporting those who are most at risk to have serious health issues.
  • We have more than 450 community partnerships across our organization that enable us to have tangible impact in our communities.
    • With the advent of COVID, we also found that testing and basic COVID safety items were especially needed in at-risk communities, so we came together with partners to do walk-up, pop-up family testing for free at churches and school lunch pick-up sites.
    • The Wellstar Center for Health Equity has orchestrated 29 pop-up testing sites where we have administered 2,600 COVID tests for families, and we have distributed more than 51,000 safety kits.

WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED ALONG THE WAY AS A DIVERSITY LEADER; AS WELL AS WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE (ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE CURRENT CLIMATE OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC).

We recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone, with multiple facets, including the pandemic, race relations, the economy, and general uncertainty about everything. We are thankful that we have an extensive framework for communications, listening, engagement, and support for our team members already in place that we have tapped as a foundation for our path forward.

  • We have found that our behavioral health initiatives – which has been an immediate and extensive approach – have had meaningful impact. We are leveraging all the communications vehicles at our disposal to provide resources, tips, and tools to ensure that our team members feel supported and heard. From podcasts to toolkits to group discussions, pastoral support, counseling services, a helpline and rounding with nurses and caregivers, reaching out to and connecting with our team members throughout this period has been a priority.
  • We have worked diligently to get critical and culturally sensitive information out to the public to help them stay healthy and well, working alongside local and state departments of health, community leaders and elected officials, and even our health system peers.
  • Even the youngest people in our communities have benefited from helpful information. To help parents, grandparents, and educators teach and nurture COVID safety habits as kids started back to school, our team created and produced a Wellstar Safety Kid Rap song and video.
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