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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Creating Diverse Nursing and Healthcare Teams

Experts share recruiting strategies that push the diversity needle forward

By Elise Oberliesen
ospitals have long known the importance of developing diverse staffing rosters that reflect the patients in the communities they serve. Despite well intentioned efforts, implementing staffing changes has been slow, according to some experts.
“Diversity and inclusion have always been on the agenda, but pushing the agenda faster is needed,” said Geraldine Young, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, CDE, FAANP, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer with Frontier Nursing University, in Versailles, Kentucky. “The incident with George Floyd may have accelerated these efforts.” Young recalls a “big push” in 2007 to expand diversity and inclusion staffing policies when she worked for Federally Qualified Health Centers. These facilities are eligible for government funding in underserved areas based on the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) guidelines.
“Having diverse healthcare teams leads to better care for the patient and better patient outcomes, which is thoroughly established by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative,” Young said. To better understand quality measures tied to patient care, the Institute for Heathcare Improvement (IHI) is another resource, she said. Beverly Malone, CEO and President of the National League for Nursing, in Washington, D.C, said diverse healthcare teams have been shown to correlate with lower hospital readmission rates. Strong communication is critically important during patient discharge, she said. Patients and family members must understand medication instructions and follow-up care during discharge.

Building Partnerships Supports Diverse Recruiting Efforts

Healthcare systems can use social media platforms to attract and recruit diverse candidates, but they must continue building relationships and collaborative partnerships in the community offline. Why? Because eventually they will shift toward post-pandemic recovery with more face-to-face contact as people return to the office, according to a Deloitte report entitled, “Workforce Strategies for Post COVID-19 Recovery.” According to the experts interviewed for this article, meeting and networking with people at colleges, community events, and places of worship can help recruiters build relationships, grow partnerships, and eventually hire new people. Over time, this approach helps recruiters gain access to more diverse streams of job candidates. Before hiring diverse candidates, recruiters must find them. Malone suggested visiting places of worship, including churches, temples, and synagogues, as a way of accessing these candidates. Meeting new people in new places, she said, can help recruiters develop collaborative relationships. After building these relationships, recruiters can request introductions to prospective candidates interested in a job change.
Diversity and inclusion have always been on the agenda, but pushing the agenda faster is needed.
— Geraldine Young, DNP, APRN
For instance, she said, "Talk to the minister at a Black church and invite Black nurses to the hospital for an event.”
Young and Malone also recommended building relationships with nursing schools at historically Black universities.
Deborah Baker, DNP, NEA-BC, Senior Vice President for Nursing with Johns Hopkins Health System and Vice President for Nursing and Patient Care Services with The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, suggests linking internal recruiting efforts with local colleges. This allows entry level staff in clerical or nutrition positions to pursue college education while preparing for advanced clinical roles.
“Also make sure programs are in place for career counseling,” she continued. Baker indicated that Johns Hopkins offers scholarships and grant programs that help ease the financial burden of working and going to school.
“In our REACH program, employees go to school part time, work part time, and get paid full time; that’s one way we are working to build diversity,” Baker said.

Consider Additional Outreach Efforts

To successfully build partnerships with organizations in the community, it will require taking some bold steps. This includes expanding outreach efforts via senior leadership. “Hospital nursing leaders should develop relationships with deans and leaders at diverse schools of nursing, community colleges, and high schools,” Baker said. Request that a nurse recruiter stand at the podium to give college nursing students a day in the life glimpse at your hospital, said Baker. She added, “Talk about hospital culture, benefits and career. Bring a bedside nurse with you because they are so enthusiastic about being a nurse and will share more details about the job.”

Improving Patient Outcomes Through Cultural Competence

When healthcare organizations hire culturally diverse staff, they are better positioned to understand the diverse needs of the patient populations they serve, in part because diverse staff bring fresh ideas to organizations, Malone said. “Having a diverse workforce is so important for inclusion of ideas,” she said. “You want different ideas and you want those ideas to be challenged, otherwise you won’t know if the ideas are good. Diversity does that.” According to research, certain racial and ethnic populations experience higher mortality rates from chronic disease. Researchers suggest that improved cultural competence in healthcare settings helps improve patient outcomes. Healthcare facilities that score low in cultural competence correlate with patient safety events such as missed screenings, medication issues, and diagnostic errors, according to a report published by Patient Safety Network. Health facilities can improve their cultural competence by hiring a cross section of people from different backgrounds. For example, language barriers with patients can be resolved when bilingual clinicians and those trained in American Sign Language are on staff. Finding ways to overcome communication challenges with patients and families is critical, Malone said. “Cultural competence is so important in working with patients because what you’re demonstrating and saying may not be what they are hearing,” Malone said. To attract and recruit a diverse staff requires more than posting jobs online and filtering resumes. A recruitment strategy that includes community partnerships and keeps in mind patient safety and the importance of expanding cultural competence can guide the process of building more diverse teams.
Elise Oberliesen is a freelance writer.