It’s been more than a year since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis – what Caste author Isabel Wilkerson called a “psychic break” in our nation’s consciousness. Since then, many organizations have launched new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs to elevate their workforce cultures. Others expanded their existing initiatives to amplify marginalized voices.
Now Tribal EM has also launched a DEI program to honor our core values and our mission of transforming Indigenous healthcare.
This isn’t entirely new territory for us. Hopefully, you already know we focus on providing culture-centric, compassionate care to address American Indian and Alaskan Native healthcare disparities. And if you’re familiar with our staffing services, you know we train our physicians, nurses, therapists, and other staff in cultural competency and tribal nuances specific to each community we serve. But that’s not the be all and end all of delivering exceptional patient care. Nor is it enough to build a genuinely inclusive workplace culture. A committed DEI program, with a team willing to hold honest conversations and explore areas for improvement, can elevate our performance in every area.
As Brent Cavender, our Director of Account Management, put it, “We place hundreds of healthcare professionals in Tribal facilities all over Indian Country. So it’s essential we equip them with the tools to create a compassionate clinical environment, regardless of the patient’s background or beliefs. But we’re also committed to giving everyone an inclusive and positive work environment. Our new DEI program is designed to help succeed at both.”
What our DEI Program Looks Like
Essentially, our DEI program builds new initiatives and education modules to grow an appealing and equitable culture that respects diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We started with an in-depth workforce survey to measure our performance in multiple areas. Does the Tribal EM culture make people of all backgrounds and identities feel accepted, heard, and valued? Do our staff know how and where to report harassment? Do team members understand our patients’ cultural background and offer culturally informed care? We needed these answers to these and other questions to understand the ways we needed to improve.
Since then, we launched a hotline to report incidents of harassment and bias, as well as a book club tailored to exploring themes of diversity, healthcare disparities, and transformation. We’re also launching a series of lunch and learns with guest speakers on different topics.
Most excitingly, we hired Melody Lewis, Mojave/Tewa/Hopi and an enrolled member of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, to lead the program as Director of DEI. She also serves on the Tribal EM Advisory Board. Melody is a social entrepreneur who specializes in systems of workforce development, education, and capacity building, utilizing collaborative approaches rooted in Indigenous identity. If you’re in Phoenix, you might know her first business, Indigenous Community Collaborative. IndigenousCC targets workforce systems, educational institutions, and nonprofits to create forward-thinking solutions that empower the Indigenous voice. She also recently launched Cahokia, a SocialTech + ArtSpace in downtown Phoenix.
“Indigenous communities primarily function from a collectivist perspective, meaning, community and family holistic well-being are at the forefront of all business decisions,” she said. “That’s my personal and business mission too. We hope that the DEI initiatives align to that perspective and evolve to take the lead in everyday business. “
An electric presence and workforce innovator, Melody started bringing creative DEI ideas to the table on day one and hasn’t stopped. We’re beyond excited to work with her!
Turning Growth into Transformation
DEI should never be just a paragraph in an employee handbook or a check-the-box HR initiative. At Tribal EM, it is a living, breathing reality fed by every team member. Every service we deliver, every patient we care for, every attitude we bring to a meeting, ultimately shapes not only our culture, but patient outcomes. We take that responsibility seriously and we are committed to nothing less than extraordinary transformation.