The Oregon Caregiver SPRING/SUMMER 2022 www.ohca.com 16 QUALITY DEI and Quality: How to Build Cultures of Belonging By Linda Kirschbaum, Oregon Health Care Association Two years ago, OHCA made supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts within OHCA and the senior care sector one of the organization’s primary ongoing objectives. OHCA staff and members are dedicated to providing quality care to all individuals living in Oregon’s long term care settings regardless of their race, religious affiliations, and gender identities, and provide caregivers and staff equitable, inclusive, and opportunity-abundant workplaces. We pledge to take steps to educate ourselves as well as our provider members to determine the best way to promote person-centered services and amplify the voices of marginalized communities, including adults that may be aging, disabled, Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQIA+. We are committed to advancing and improving equity, respect, and unity in our sector and beyond. At OHCA’s February 2022 Quality Summit, keynote speaker, Lou Raja, described inclusion as follows: Inclusion is about making sure that the people [residents, staff, visitors] in your community [facility, agency] know that they are welcome, and they belong. Retention is about creating an inclusive culture so that people are engaged and feel like they are part of something important. Belonging, and connection, are all essential to humans. Everyone has experienced a time when they felt like they were the “odd person out,” including potentially being the only person of color in a meeting or living in a long term care community. Our workplaces and communities must be safe havens for all who enter. DEI in the Long Term Care Workplace One of the primary attributes people are looking for in their work experiences is a sense of community. Americans on average spend a third of their days engaged in work activity. While the pandemic fostered newfound unity among teams in long term care settings, national and local race-related events prompted employees and consumers to demand action for racial injustice and movement toward more equitable communities and workplaces, where all employees feel welcomed and accepted. An improved sense of community and a feeling of belonging to something bigger was a silver lining long term care derived from the pandemic. How do long term care organizations hang on to that gift? The need for belonging is universal and fundamental. If long term care leaders keep their focus on cultivating cultures of belonging, those actions will support forward progress with each organization’s DEI goals. DEI and Quality DEI work requires an “all-in” commitment, as does continuous quality improvement. These are work practices that are forever and evolving. Organizations that strive to better themselves are the ones that commit to being learning organizations. DEI education and information support an organization’s journey to grow and become more inclusive. A common theme or comment among organizations that have set afoot on the DEI path is, “This is hard work. It is uncomfortable work.” There is no denying those facts! However, the rewards are tangible and many of the efforts to foster belonging and inclusion are simple, small steps of change that can move an organization forward with their DEI goals. The work improves the work experience and satisfaction of each associate working in a community. It can increase staff retention, improve quality care and service outcomes, promote person-centered care, and enhance relationships and connection between residents and staff. The need to belong and be valued, respected, and appreciated are universal values. To quote Christopher Ridenour, the closing keynote speaker at the 2022 Quality Summit: “[These things] do not have ‘a color;’ [… These] human values, coupled with a mindset of positivity and conscious leadership will strengthen an organization by increasing quality and continuity of care, and developing a culture of belonging.” According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “What Does it Take to Build a Culture of Belonging?,” to build a culture of belonging and reap the many benefits for employers and employees, leaders first require a clear understanding of what it means to belong at work. Informed by existing measures and extensive research by Coqual, the authors developed a quantifiable definition1 that states we belong at work when we are: 1. Seen for our unique contributions We are committed to advancing and improving equity, respect, and unity in our sector and beyond.