‘Our story is the story of our community, and we are rewriting it daily’

Every healthcare organization is impacted by the community it serves, with social, economic and institutional factors naturally influencing the approach to care. In the best of circumstances, this results in an interconnected relationship where we work, learn and grow together.

At AtlantiCare, we appreciate that fulfilling our mission to promote health and healing is achieved by creating partnerships that address the other stressors—food insecurity, housing inequality, unconscious bias, and more—affecting the quality of life for those we serve.

To fulfill our aspirations requires a renewed commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels. After all, in serving Atlantic City and the greater southeastern New Jersey community, we find ourselves in a region where the percentage of Asian, Black and Hispanic residents is at or above the national average.

For more than a decade, AtlantiCare has, like other organizations across the country, developed a robust Employee Resource Group program to better reflect this diversity. More than 700 employees participate in at least one of our 11 ERGs to represent the interests and issues of importance to our patients and teams.

Reinforcing this commitment, we seated our first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, and we established a sixth core organizational value: inclusion. It speaks to the cultural identity we strive to create every day and rightfully gives heft to our organizational standard of creating a sense of belonging for all.

To influence the healthcare leaders of today, we are having frank conversations, both one-on-one and in groups, to learn about our employees’ unique experiences. We have also introduced two-day, immersive inclusive leadership training so our leadership team can serve as role models for the rest of our organization. Our goal is for employees to be their authentic selves. When they are true to themselves and welcome the authenticity of others, we are better able to care for our patients and their loved ones in a way they feel heard, respected and embraced.

The trust these efforts build makes a clear impact on public health. For example, as COVID-19 vaccinations began, our ERGs mobilized to conduct a highly successful community outreach program resulting in the vaccination of thousands in our Black and Hispanic communities. In advance of Pride Month, we conducted an inclusive workplace survey to assess perceptions of our healing environment for LGBTQIA+ individuals. The results will allow us to create meaningful change that fosters inclusion for all.

Externally, our approach is designed to provide maximum impact to our most vulnerable populations. AtlantiCare’s Safe Beginnings program aims to address disproportionate maternal and infant mortality rates by providing expectant mothers resources and services spanning their first trimester through their baby’s first year. Our Pantry at the Plex program addresses food insecurity in Atlantic City. To date, we have distributed almost half a million pounds of food to those in need. And we are leading a community-driven neighborhood revitalization plan for Atlantic City’s Midtown neighborhood.

We are also focused on growing the healthcare leaders of tomorrow. In collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City, we hosted screenings and panel discussions of the documentary “Black Men in White Coats” to engage local youth around careers in medicine.

Together, each of these efforts and more speak to the sacred responsibility we should all embrace as protectors of public health.

AtlantiCare’s DEI journey is teaching us that the path is long and the challenges steep. However, this work is imperative and promotes a greater understanding of our differences and similarities. Through an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement, AtlantiCare hopes to contribute to a more vibrant, inclusive community while discovering new ways to serve all those who live within it. Our story is the story of our community, and we are rewriting it daily.

Source: modernhealthcare.com

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