Fostering Unity and Embracing Inclusion

Debbie Simon, UnityPoint Health

I believe an organization’s values are an expression of its core beliefs. Values are a way of putting into words the philosophies that guide us as we interact with those we serve, the communities we’re part of and the people we work with. UnityPoint Health’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is a central part of our values, and we say it especially well in our first value: Fostering Unity.

For us, this means providing outstanding healthcare to everyone. It means finding ways to give more people access to our programs and services. And it means looking inward, embracing and cultivating diversity in our teams and ideas. I’m proud of how we’re fostering unity in the work we do and the impact it’s having—in the community, and on us.

One example is our partnership with Peoria Public Schools through our in-school health program. UnityPoint Health nurse practitioners are working full-time at Manual Academy, Trewyn School and Harrison Community Learning Center. This isn’t your traditional school nurse program... This is comprehensive primary care, on-site, available to every student, every day. Our providers really get to know the students and care for them the same way patients are cared for in a clinic. We do it because we know healthy kids are more likely to succeed. And our work isn’t limited to Manual, Trewyn and Harrison; children from any District 150 school may visit one of these sites for a physical. We never turn a child away. We’ve also partnered with schools in East Peoria and Pekin to provide on-site nurses and medical assistants.

In addition, we believe Fostering Unity means being intentional about serving diverse groups of people. At our Hult Center for Healthy Living, the children’s programming includes sessions designed for kids with special needs. Hult is also exploring ways to reach college-age women about breast health and providing an array of services to adults and seniors. At Methodist College, more than 50 people have been trained through the Safe Zone Project, a program that teaches people how to provide safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ community. Scholarships are in place to assist minority, economically disadvantaged, first-generation and male students (who are a minority in the field of nursing). We’re also reaching communities across the region with our MammoVan and Wellmobile, which make dozens of stops each month at grocery stores, libraries and community centers to provide mammograms and other potentially life-saving screenings to anyone in need.

We’re living our values inside our own walls by making diversity and inclusion a priority for each of our team members from day one. During each of our employees’ first day of work, we take them through exercises on diversity, teaching them to value everyone’s skills, thoughts and perspectives. We offer ongoing training and education to our teams on topics like how to have important conversations with people who have different perspectives than you. And we’re opening our workplaces up to the community, inviting organizations inside to help their clients learn interview skills and see our teams in action.

For us, Fostering Unity is really about widening our circles. Our in-school health program is about taking care of people outside the walls of our hospitals and clinics, meeting people in the neighborhoods where they live. The programs at Hult Center for Healthy Living and Methodist College are ways we’re intentionally connecting with diverse groups of people. When we embrace inclusion in our workplaces, we’re showing the community that we welcome everyone. As a health system, we’re expected to deliver the highest quality care available. Our values call us to make that care as accessible as possible. It’s a job that’s never finished. We’re continuously looking for ways to build stronger relationships with the communities we serve. iBi

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