Championing a culture of inclusion
Since joining HCA Healthcare in 2006, Sherri Neal has helped promote our organization’s commitment to fostering a culture of inclusion. In her role as chief diversity officer, she is responsible for leading the design, development and implementation of equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy and programs.
This year has been challenging for everyone, as our communities deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As events around the country have brought issues of racial equity and social justice to the forefront of conversations, we asked Sherri how HCA Healthcare is addressing these issues while reinforcing our organization’s commitment to ensuring equity from the inside out.
Q: What are some of the ways HCA Healthcare is actively embracing diversity and inclusion in light of recent events around racial justice?
A: It is important to share that prior to recent events, we were actively working on our expanded and renewed focus on building our diversity, inclusion and equity strategy. However, recent events allowed us to strengthen our diversity and inclusion program by accelerating existing initiatives and launching new programs such as town halls and listening sessions. In July, we held a listening session with several of our Black senior leaders as a first step toward improving our culture and shaping solutions. We learned the importance of measuring and reporting diversity and inclusion data and working to ensure equity in opportunities for advancement. Other topics included creating educational opportunities for colleagues to help them understand their own biases and how to address them.
Q: The pandemic has also put the spotlight on our nation’s racial disparities in healthcare. How will you use this experience to improve equity of care?
A: The disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has on communities of color and vulnerable populations is well documented. From our perspective, the pandemic has only served to magnify what we already knew: that there are many factors contributing to disparities in healthcare, including COVID-19 outcomes. They include socioeconomics, racism, clinical health, and access to and quality of care. We’re using this time to look closely at our own patient data as it relates to COVID-19 to identify opportunities for improvement. We are also actively having some BRAVE Conversations featuring experts on this topic discussing ways we can create real change for our organization and the communities we serve. As the nation’s largest private provider of healthcare, we have a unique opportunity to shape the conversation with our data and insight.
Q: Much focus has been on race lately, but diversity and inclusion expand in many other ways. How is your team working to include all HCA Healthcare colleagues?
A: Our new programs will reinforce our commitment to giving colleagues a voice and to fostering inclusion. Beginning in 2021, we will establish local colleague network chapters based on those now serving veterans, Black colleagues, women, young professionals, LGBTQ+, Hispanic/Latinx and Asian colleagues. The importance of fostering an inclusive culture will be featured in our annual code of conduct training in 2021. It will offer colleagues practical skills and resources to better support each other, our patients and the communities we serve.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
A: I love that the work of our team touches the soul of our organization. It’s embedded in everything we do, positively affecting patient care, expanding potential business opportunities and driving an inclusive culture. I’m inspired by colleagues who are brave enough to share their concerns and ask questions about issues they don’t understand, and by those who are finding ways to lead their teams through these challenging times.
“I love that the work of our team touches the soul of our organization.”
— Sherri Neal, Chief Diversity Officer HCA Healthcare, Nashville, Tenn.
Q: What do you look forward to seeing happen with our diversity and inclusion programs in the future?
A: Our commitment is not passive — it’s active. We are challenged to make sure our efforts are more than just words on a page, but rather bold actions that will result in change. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable access to high-quality care for our patients, fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace for our colleagues, and cultivating and sustaining relationships with suppliers and community partners that broaden our reach in the communities we serve. By fully engaging colleagues from all backgrounds and perspectives, we will positively influence our working relationships and, ultimately, the patients we serve.
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