02/03/04 — Hospital diversity

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Hospital diversity

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 3, 2004 2:02 PM

Two dozen health care workers from across the state are meeting in Goldsboro this week to learn about bridging the diversity gap.

For four days, representatives from four hospitals will gather information to pass on to their cohorts at home. The combined training is part of a Duke Endowment grant that was awarded in the spring as a means to expand the nursing profession to include other races and men.

Four rural hospitals in the state were selected to split the $950,000 grant over the next three years. In addition to Wayne Memorial Hospital, the other hospitals are Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir, Rowan Regional Medical Center in Salisbury and Heritage Hospital in Tarboro.

The grant provides for a "diversity coordinator," although the job title in each hospital differs. Sandi Morrisey, workforce development coordinator at Wayne Memorial, said that the grant also required training for employees. Those in attendance will pass along the information to smaller groups at their hospitals.

"We hope to spread this to the medical staff, even to the executive level," she said.

"This is a very important opportunity. The skies are limitless as far as what we can do in the community. I think we'll be better able to serve our communities because of what we learn this week."

Anita Rowe is one of the trainers for this week's workshops. She and her partner, Lee Gardenswartz, are based in Los Angeles and travel the country conducting similar training. She talks a lot about what diversity is and says it's much more than race and gender.

"Diversity spans a lot," she said. "It's also management status, parental status, work affiliation and categories. It's understanding about stereotypes and prejudices, looking at culture and how we are set up to behave certain ways."

She said there is a great need to work better with different groups of people.

"In our lives outside of work, we tend to hang around people who are like us," she said. "In school and in the workplace are two places we come together with people who are different from us.

"This gives us an opportunity to come together. If we can help people deal with us, work to cross those lines, there will be a ripple effect."

Spiritual diversity is one that Becky Crawford often sees. As the director of spiritual care services at Caldwell Memorial in Lenoir, Ms. Crawford said she has found a need to recognize the difference in religious faiths.

"Typically where we live in the 'Bible Belt,' all of us need to be open to whatever the spiritual needs of our patients are," she said.

Sharon O'Dowd, recently hired as manager of recruitment and retention at Wayne Memorial, also attended the workshop. As a newcomer to the job, she said she was anxious to absorb the information given.

"Recruiting nurses is very important," she said. "We need nurses from all walks of life."

Latika McCoy, a medical laboratory technician at Wayne Memorial, said she was interested in recruiting workers into other areas of the health care profession. She said there is a need to be open-minded.

"Hopefully, this training will make it a lot clearer in dealing with the public," she said.

Ms. Rowe said she is often asked if diversity is good or not, but that is not the right question.

"The right question is how do we deal with the diversity that we have got," she said, noting that North Carolina has seen the largest increase of Latinos than any other state in recent years.

Ms. Morrisey said stereotypes start early, whether it's about other groups of people or about professions. She is enthusiastic about her job as a nurse and the opportunity to dispel some of the perceptions that only certain types of people can become one.

"People of different cultures can be nurses; men can be nurses," she said.

In honor of Black History Month, she said, representatives from the hospital will visit elementary schools in the county to speak with young people about health careers.