Equity, diversity and inclusion take center stage

Quanna Batiste Brown and Kemi Reeves
Quanna Batiste-Brown, left, chief nursing officer of ambulatory care at UCLA Health and Kemi Reeves, a gerontological nurse practitioner in the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, are both involved in the Unity in Diversity Council. (Photo by Josh Sudock/UCLA Health)
6 min read

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are essential principles at UCLA Health, and these core concepts are woven into the fabric of nursing at every level. The work of EDI takes place every day and engages all aspects of UCLA Health. Here are a few examples of how this important work is helping nurses foster an environment that prioritizes equity-focused care for patients and inclusivity among colleagues and the greater UCLA Health community.

Unity in Diversity Council

The Unity in Diversity Council (UID) launched in 2022. Born out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social-justice movement that emerged in 2020, which together shined a light on structural racism and widespread discrimination, the council is focused on establishing an authentic environment of equity, diversity and inclusion for patients, trainees, volunteers and staff.       

Kemi Reeves, MSN, RN, GNP-BC, is among the leaders of the council. A gerontological nurse practitioner in the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, she recalls how, in the summer of 2020, many patients and their family members were requesting assistance to navigate the health system to find culturally competent care. “These requests appeared to be prompted by greater societal attention being paid to institutional racism and to cultural identity, as well as the increased rate of mortality from COVID-19 in communities of color,” Reeves says. In response, she reached out to UCLA Health Patient Experience to see if her encounters were unique, or if they reflected a larger issue within the health system. “I learned that there had been more requests for cultural accommodations from patients and families throughout the system,” she says. “Therefore, I decided to take a more active role in EDI efforts within the health system.”

Reeves reached out to Chief Nursing Executive Karen A. Grimley, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, FAAN, who referred her to the Professional Development Council (PDC), which had a subcommittee also looking into options to improve EDI-related nursing practices. The idea for a council dedicated to the work of equity, diversity and inclusion arose from this group of dedicated nurses. 

Two nurses at EDI event
The inaugural Unity and Kindness Day was held May 25, 2022. Hosted by the Unity in Diversity Council, it provided an opportunity for UCLA Health staff to honor both Nurses’ Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. (Photo by WorldWise Productions)

These nurses made a formal request to the NEC (Nurse Executive Council) for a new EDI-focused group within Professional Governance. “It was six months to a year in the making — writing a charter, meeting with various stakeholders and considering what our role is within nursing and also within the broader environment of UCLA Health,” Reeves says.

Once approved, UID was placed under the umbrella of Nursing Professional Governance and divided into five subcommittees. The subcommittees are:

  • Patient Equity: Work with Nursing Data Analytics and the Office of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (HEDI) to create nursing-specific EDI performance metrics across service lines; and develop standardized EDI Press Ganey patient-experience questions to be included across all service lines;
  • Professional Advancement in Diversity: Work to develop pathways for professional development for nurses and staff; 
  • Equity Awareness and Integration: Work with UCLA Products Development and Central Supply to standardize inclusion of population-specific supplies for each nursing unit; develop pathways for professional development; in partnership with the Center for Nursing Excellence and the UCLA School of Nursing, present four-part EDI webinar series focused on the role of nurses to advance health equity, practice cultural humility, mitigate unconscious bias and foster inclusive relationships with colleagues; work with Department of Patient Safety and Quality Management to review SOFI (Safety Opportunities for Improvement), UCLA Health’s event-reporting process, improve staff understanding of the process and support engagement with the SOFI system;
  • Staff artist's painting
    In December 2022, a painting created by staff artists to celebrate staff diversity and the united commitment to provide the highest-quality patient care was unveiled in newly established 3NW break room in UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center. (Photo by Josh Sudock/UCLA Health)
    Healthy Practice Environment and Nurse Well-being: In collaboration with Transformational Leadership Council and the Professional Development Council, identify spaces to create break rooms and respite areas for nurses in both Westwood and Santa Monica hospitals. In December 2022, a painting created by staff artists to celebrate staff diversity and the united commitment to provide the highest-quality patient care was unveiled in newly established 3NW break room in UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center; 
  • Community Participation and Contribution: Launch a quarterly UID newsletter to share work of the council and encourage others to join council activities. The newsletter is available at: tinyurl.com/UID-Newsletter. This subcommittee spearheaded the planning for the inaugural 2022 Unity and Kindness Day.

Unity and Kindness Day

The inaugural Unity and Kindness Day was held May 25, 2022, on the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. Hosted by the Unity in Diversity Council, it provided an opportunity for UCLA Health staff to honor both Nurses’ Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, and connect at a community level, engage in wellness activities and learn about principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. Staff members from across the spectrum of the UCLA Health hospitals and ambulatory clinics participated in-person and remotely. Representatives from a variety of UCLA Health initiatives were present at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center to provide therapeutic services from the UCLA People-Animal Connection Team; UCLA Recreation, which provided laughter yoga; and the PaUse Cart, which offered aromatherapy, soothing teas and other items to promote well-being.

Among the highlights of the day was a Random Messages activity during which attendees participated in note writing and hung kindness remarks on a golden ring to showcase their intentions for the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Attendees also participated in a letter-writing campaign, entitled Myri’s List, for refugee families newly arrived to the Los Angeles area.  

Work at the state level

Quanna Batiste-Brown, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FABC, chief nursing officer of ambulatory care at UCLA Health, was a key participant in a statewide assembly of nursing leaders charged by the American Nurses Association/California (ANA/C) with developing a plan to eradicate racism in nursing.

Launched during the height of the pandemic, the 10-member task force met virtually over a one-year period. During initial focus groups, nurses discussed the current state of nursing and their personal experiences with racism. Their conversations led to development of a 50-question assessment tool for staff nurses and managers, which was piloted at UCLA Health and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. After nearly a year of research, data analysis, live forums and discussions, the task force developed a toolkit and an action plan that will be used in strategic planning in nursing departments throughout the country.

For her work, Dr. Batiste-Brown received the Public Policy Award from the ANA/C. She currently is working with the ANA/California Taskforce to create a similar assessment for nursing students and faculty. “I am gratified that I will be able to leave a legacy to improve conditions for nursing,” Dr. Batiste-Brown says. “I’ve been a nurse for more than 20 years and my daughter wants to be a nurse. To enable her to have a more positive experience is something I’m very proud of.”

Jennifer Karmarkar is the author of this article.

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