UAB Nursing focuses on intercultural competency as part of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts

UAB Medicine is committed to maintaining an environment of respect, diversity, and inclusion, and it recognizes that understanding and promoting these values leads to better patient care.

Amid heightened political and cultural tensions nationally in 2020, UAB Nursing redoubled our efforts to maintain an inclusive workplace where all employees feel safe and encouraged to express themselves. We worked with the UAB Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to launch a program to educate and engage nursing leaders about intercultural competence, which is defined as “the ability to relate and communicate effectively when individuals involved in the interaction do not share the same culture, ethnicity, language, or other common experiences.”

Nursing DEI team

Launched in fall 2021, this ongoing effort has helped spark important conversations for nearly two years. It began in early 2021, when Chief Nursing Officer Terri Poe, DNP, RN, NE-BC, appointed several nurses to a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) team and charged them with determining the best way to achieve two main goals:

  1. Create an environment of safety where all nursing staff feel free to speak out
  2. Create a culture of inclusion for members of the nursing team

This nursing DEI team worked with UAB Medicine Chief Diversity Officer André Lessears, MBA, to craft the most effective approach, and he pointed the team toward the idea of intercultural competency. Lessears suggested an initiative based on the following intercultural development core competencies:

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Curiosity
  • Flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity
  • Patience

In turn, the team developed the following strategy:

  • Focus on nurse leaders, including senior directors, directors, nurse managers, and nursing professional development specialists.
  • Educate nurse leaders on each competency, so that they can better address DEI topics with their staff, patients, and patient families.
  • Present the competencies one at a time over the course of 7-8 weeks per competency, with the total schedule taking one year to complete.

Each competency was to be divided into small bits of information and presented in 10 weekly sessions of 20 minutes each. The information would be scripted and presented through various formats, including video, testimonials, and open discussions.

Thoughtful Thursday and Free Space Friday

The Nursing DEI Team coordinated with Poe to convey the DEI education in an existing format, to take advantage of time already allotted for nursing leaders. They settled on one day a week during the daily nurse leader call, and Thoughtful Thursday was introduced in October 2021.

Nurse leaders were enthusiastic about the content from the 15-minute Thoughtful Thursday sessions and asked for more discussion time. In response, the Nursing DEI team created Free Space Friday, an allotted hour of open discussion related to DEI topics – many of which were introduced during Thoughtful Thursday sessions. Over the next year, the team progressed through education of nurse leaders on each of the intercultural development core competencies.

Starting in October 2022, Thoughtful Thursdays began to be used in helping leaders navigate important conversations related to DEI. The Nursing DEI team worked to instill the three basic rules of leading tough conversations:

  1. Move toward the conflict.
  2. You don’t know anything – and even if you do, pretend you don’t.
  3. Embrace the silence and keep quiet.

The Nursing DEI team continues to provide useful content on Thoughtful Thursdays and Free Space Fridays, which are now held every other week. These ongoing initiatives help nursing leaders better relate to and communicate with staff and remain sensitive to the aspects of DEI in everyday nursing situations.

This story is part of the Nursing Annual Report 2022. Click here to view the report.

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