Attendees from across BJC ‘become aware’ at Diverse Nurses Connection conference
Anyone who left the second annual BJC Diverse Nurses Connection Conscious Care Conference without learning something new probably wasn’t paying attention.
With a theme of “Becoming Aware of Your Unaware,” and presentations ranging from a leadership “Blue Table Talk” to a human trafficking primer and a learning session on microaggressions, the conference program was packed with insights and information.
More than 140 nurses from across BJC attended the all-day event, Feb. 21, in the Christian Hospital Detrick Atrium. The conference was geared to nurses and patient care team members who encounter a diverse range of co-workers and patients.
“During the conference, I encountered several attendees who also attended last year,” says BJC workforce diversity manager Terrie Hart, who helped organize the event. “They said to me, ‘I thought last year’s conference was good, and this team has exceeded that today. What are you going to do next year?’ I just smiled and thanked them for attending.
“The Diverse Nurses Connection group members who organized the conference are thrilled about the opportunity to be a part of something larger than their day-to-day roles. I’m proud to lead this work with them.”
The program kicked off with a free-ranging, frank and sometimes funny discussion modeled on Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talks” web series. Several BJC chief nursing officers (CNOs) participated, including BJC CNO Denise Murphy, Memorial CNO Teresa Halloran, Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital CNO Yoany Finetti and Christian Hospital CNO Lori Weatherspoon, with Angelleen Peters-Lewis, Barnes-Jewish Hospital CNO, moderating.
During the discussion, the CNOs found some remarkable similarities, despite their diverse backgrounds, career paths and taste in television shows. For instance, all professed to breaking rules occasionally — or, at least, pushing boundaries.
“I was always the one in trouble,” Halloran said. But being willing to push back can lead to extraordinary moments, she said, as when she was able to bring a dog into an ICU so its owner could say a final goodbye. “You never know what’s possible unless you ask.”
While Murphy joked about the wisdom of nursing leaders advising the crowd to break the rules, she later told the story of how persistence in the face of repeatedly being told “no” helped a small group of BJC colleagues form the centralized, system-wide infection prevention consortium.
The panelists also agreed that countering biases in life or the workplace depends on being intentional, namely, not making assumptions about another person’s experience; approaching everyone with respect; and asking, rather than guessing, how others want to be addressed.
Finetti said she makes a point of connecting with people on the basis of their values, rather than their outward identity, race or ethnicity.
Weatherspoon and Halloran noted that people, such as longtime co-workers, can unintentionally form “cliques” and have to be intentional about not being exclusive.
Weatherspoon, a newcomer to BJC, said she was heartened to see the intentional work being done in the organization to break down the walls between people.
Following the discussion, St. Louis police detective Keaton Strong, a crisis intervention specialist for the Ritenour School District, presented an eye-opening primer on human trafficking and how to recognize it.
In the case study Strong presented, the trafficking victim ended up in a BJC emergency room. But, he noted, the increase in trafficking in recent years has raised the likelihood of any hospital emergency room encountering trafficking victims.
A networking lunch followed Strong’s presentation, with attendees also getting a chance to sign BJC’s traveling Diversity and Inclusion banner.
After lunch, Kathleen Houston, manager of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) team, discussed how to approach trafficking victims in the emergency room or other clinical setting.
BJH senior diversity manager Harlan Hodge presented strategies to recognize and handle microaggressions or “accidental insults” — the daily intentional or unintentional insults, slights or snubs that express derogatory or negative messages directed toward any socially marginalized group.
The conference ended with an activity, “Looking Beyond Our Unaware,” led by SLCH senior organizational effectiveness consultant Dave Brewer.
Interested nurses should save the date for next year’s conference, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27, 2020.