How would you react if you were a health-care provider and heard two colleagues talking about feeling uneasy with seeing another co-worker in a burka? What if, instead of the burka, the two colleagues were talking about a co-worker’s weight? Alternatively, how would you react if a co-worker told you in private that he would be transitioning to live full-time as a woman?
Depending on your background and experiences, these situations may (or may not) make you uncomfortable. But, regardless of how you feel, events like this occur in the workplace all the time. Discomfort, whether expressed verbally or not, can make other people feel judged or unwelcome.
To ensure an inclusive and inviting work environment throughout the Duke Cancer Institute, the Office of Health Equity and Disparities’ (OHED) partnered with DCI research operations staff to explore their reactions and feelings toward scenarios similar to the ones listed above. Approximately 170 people attended the sessions, which were held over a two-day retreat late last year.
“The purpose of our sessions at the retreat was to have the DCI research operations staff explore the topic of cultural bias and how it impacts our beliefs and interactions within the workplace,” said Nadine Barrett, PhD, OHED director. “The goal of the sessions was not to determine how to resolve the element of bias within each of the scenarios, but rather to determine and make us aware of the instances that elicit discomfort."
During each session, staff viewed six vignettes, each of which presented a hypothetical scenario dealing with a different aspect of diversity, from the previously mentioned scenarios to a religious caregiver who expresses disbelief about the value of his son’s cancer treatment. Using remote-control devices, each participant ranked the scenarios from 1 (“most comfortable”) to 6 (“least comfortable”). [If you would like to read the vignettes and rank them yourself, click here.]
The results reflected interesting findings where the most comfortable scenario involved a patient and his same-sex partner, the least comfortable where scenarios involving a gender-transitioning co-worker and a colleague wearing a burka. Collectively, these results highlight the importance of our continued work and commitment to diversity and creating an inviting environment at the DCI where everyone is valued and thrives in the workplace.
Participant Marla Jordan, RN, BSN, said that the sessions served as an eye-opener, both for herself as well as the other patients. “The program definitely raised awareness here at DCI Oncology CRU as well as provided information about resources and services here at Duke regarding diversity,” Jordan said. “Attending this program has truly enhanced my knowledge and self-awareness of diversity.”
The OHED will use the results from the breakout sessions to inform additional training sessions and to other diversity initiatives within the DCI. The next round of training will begin in fall 2015. Click here to read more about the OHED’s work.