The Path to Belonging: How Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Paves the Way

Mastrojohn-John-(1).jpgThe following opinion piece was penned by John Mastrojohn III, RN, MSN, MBA, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Hospice of the Western Reserve.
June is quite unlike any other month on the calendar. Weddings, graduations, and outdoor activities are all cause for celebration. For some, June is also Pride month and Juneteenth, both of which give us cause to celebrate how far we have come while recognizing how far we still must go. This recognition is of vital importance in the delivery of healthcare, as implementing best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion brings awareness to our actions and helps us provide more inclusive care.  

At Hospice of the Western Reserve, we are weaving diversity, equity, and inclusion across our organizational culture - in our management practices, in our clinical care, and our community outreach. Abbreviations such as “DEI” can become lost in contentious and polarized talking points, so it is important to define these words with intention. Hospice of the Western Reserve celebrates diverse walks of life, practices inclusion in our models of care, strives towards equitable health outcomes, and works to create a sense of belonging for all.

These seem like broad and sweeping approaches, but sometimes, a solution can simply come down to the language or an everyday practice. Think of something as simple as an intake form. Are the boxes and bubbles that must be checked inclusive of everyone? Is there room to color outside of the lines? Practices, policies, and procedures must be supportive in order to be inclusive. Embracing the nuances of a patient’s identity is an essential part of that inclusion.

Inclusion ensures that we are providing the highest quality of care for the patient and their family, however their family is defined. Central to the hospice philosophy is the concept of “family” as the patient defines it. For too long, grieving chosen family members were shut out, causing pain across generations within the LGBTQ+ community. The progress we have made to welcome loved ones to the bedside is nothing short of a triumph, but we must continue to advocate.

There is still much progress to be made to ensure equal access for all who need and desire our care. It is our responsibility to reach communities that have been historically marginalized. Hospice of the Western Reserve is diligently reaching out to our neighbors to listen, to learn, and to ask how we can do better in caring for them. Additionally, we are strengthening our relationships with other organizations, including the Minority Health Alliance, the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition, and many others.

Internally, we are committed to hiring professionals in all disciplines who reflect the communities we serve. Our Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is driving our work forward with her tireless leadership and collaboration. Over 70 members of our management and leadership teams have participated in diversity, equity, and inclusion training to help build authenticity in our relationships with patients, families, and our community partners. We also have an engaged and dedicated Board of Directors who have committed to similar goals and are supporting our efforts across the organization and in the communities we serve.  

Honoring each person and celebrating the worth of each individual life is the core of our mission. By building authenticity in our relationships, we are building a better model of care. When efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion are successful, the outcome is belonging. It is our belief that everyone deserves to feel they belong, especially on their end-of-life journey.

John Mastrojohn, III, RN, MSN, MBA, is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Hospice of the Western Reserve.

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