OHCA The Oregon Caregiver Spring Summer 2022

The Oregon Caregiver SPRING/SUMMER 2022 www.ohca.com 10 FEATURE employees because he faces some of the same discomfort and discrimination that his employees of color face. While his clients are mostly white, he says his employee base is quite diverse. At his agency, most of the care is provided by women from historically marginalized backgrounds. It’s not lost on him that long term care organizations are mostly owned by men, including himself. With his role, he says he carries a responsibility as a leader who is also a person of color. “I know it is rare in this realm, especially in home care. There are only a handful of other home care agencies with a person of color in charge, so I want to provide that hand-up to those folks who struggle with moving up through their careers in healthcare and provide them with a path forward. I am lucky enough that I’ve gotten to this point and have an opportunity to lead this wonderful group of caregivers, but I’d like to see more folks of color in our sector. The long term care sector is very underrepresented, so I’ve opened those conversations in our community,” said Phillips. To mitigate some of the challenges, Phillips made several operational changes over the past three years. His team moved to an entirely phone-based interview process to remove any visual biases. He has also included caregivers in quarterly meetings with leaders to share different experiences and address any issues from the field, which has been invaluable. “If you take a group picture of your company today, what does that picture look like? Do you look at that picture and say, ‘this is a diverse group of people and they’re going to bring all these different values and cultures to the table, and that’s going to benefit my clients, or does everybody in this room look the same?’ If everybody in this room looks the same, we’re probably not bringing a lot of different views and, and cultures and stances to the table,” he said. Phillips comes from a Sri Lankan and Native American background—cultures that center around community and relationships. He wants to instill those core values into his agency and employees. » FEATURE, CONT. Prior to the pandemic, he would organize team building events, like bowling and hosting potlucks, to identify with and connect his team with one another. At a time when long term care communities are struggling to hire and retain workers, Phillips is working to change the perspective that healthcare staff are commodities. “They’ve risked everything throughout this pandemic to be out there with folks on an individual basis. We need to show respect in return,” he said. “While money is important, what keeps me up at night is making sure that all of my employees have food on the table, they have a roof over their head, and they’re able to buy their children school clothes. That is important to me,” he said. “It makes a difference when you let people know that they’re valued, their families are valued, and the experiences they bring are valuable.” Where to Begin While several OHCA members have taken initiatives to operationalize DEI, many members still struggle with knowing how to get started or where to go next. In 2020, the OHCA Board of Directors created a DEI workgroup to address and provide resources and ideas to provider members. At the beginning of 2021, OHCA enlisted the help of Engage to Change (ETC), LLC, a Portland-based anti-racism and anti-oppression DEI consulting firm to carry out OHCA’s DEI mission and CONTINUES » Employees of A Place at Home gather for one of many team building events. “It makes a difference when you let people know that they’re valued, their families are valued, and the experiences they bring are valuable.” – Jerome Phillips, Owner, A Place at Home