The Value of DEIB in the World of Perioperative Services

By Carisa Brewster, Staff Writer and Media Relations, Whitman Partners

In 2020, Whitman Partners, the talent agency for Directors of Surgical Services, added “BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)  Perioperative Leaders to Know” to their queue of Awards and Recognition Programs. The goal is to highlight leaders from diverse backgrounds, giving voice to distinct viewpoints and experiences in perioperative leadership.

Through those conversations, it was clear that a critical need exists to create and maintain an inclusive workplace in the operating room. That led to the creation of Whitman’s report, “Diversity Hiring in Healthcare.” Conducted by Riley Research Associates, it provides the data to support what many BIPOC leaders have experienced throughout their careers. It also highlights the work required for DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) programs and initiatives to achieve tangible outcomes in perioperative services.

Leadership Commitment Crucial to DEIB Success

The report surveyed 100 healthcare professionals across the United States involved in recruiting, hiring, and training individuals in perioperative positions. Respondents were employed at hospitals, surgery centers, physician-owned medical centers, and adult care facilities. Topics included skill development, the role of mentoring, training, and the lack of BIPOC professionals in C-level positions.  

For 71% of respondents, leadership commitment was deemed the most crucial factor for creating a diverse and inclusive organization. For organizations with 700+ employees, leadership was valued even more at 85%.  

Additional challenges are the lack of qualified BIPOC candidates for C-level and director positions for close to half (47%) of the respondents and the need to create a higher level of awareness among BIPOC healthcare professionals of career advancement opportunities in perioperative medicine.  

Attracting, Retaining, and Mentoring Staff

While both internal and external sources for hiring BIPOC healthcare professionals were valuable, 49% of respondents said external sources were the most effective for them. About 44% of experienced healthcare HR professionals felt employment firms and temp agencies were immensely beneficial. However, only 13% of new HR healthcare professionals agreed those sources helped find talent.

Mentoring, particularly skill development and on-the-job training, was one of the leading solutions for increasing the recruitment and retention of BIPOC candidates. About 80% of experienced professionals, 83% of those in large hospital systems, and 70% in mid-sized systems referenced mentoring as a significant area of untapped potential.

The lack of qualified candidates is the primary challenge in filling C-level positions for 39% of respondents. For 35%, organizational resistance is another barrier to expanding their pool of C-level candidates, particularly at rural hospitals (62%).

Serving a Diverse Patient Population

In collaboration with the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI), Whitman Partners moderated a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workshop during the 2022 OR Manager Conference pre-conference event on October 16 in Denver, CO. These focused on how having perioperative leaders of diverse backgrounds (or who are culturally competent) can help deliver compassionate and inclusive care to patients who need it.

The lineup of healthcare leaders included Executive Director of Perioperative Services Tina Celifie, Manager of Surgical Services Terrice Ferguson, and Director of Nursing and Surgical Services Kendall Carter.

On the importance of having staff who can translate to communicate healthcare information to patients:

Kendall Carter, MBA, BSN, RN

“Patients want to be respected and valued, and part of that comes from respecting the parts of their culture that we may not normally experience. Nurses often find it easy to use family members as translators. But sometimes, we found that a son wouldn’t necessarily directly translate what you’re saying to his mother because he is uncomfortable talking about her hysterectomy. So we had to take the time to respect and value them by getting an actual translator to ensure we’re providing quality care and that they understand what we’re going to do in surgery.”


On knowing how to work around cultural practices while providing high-quality care:

Tina Celifie, BSN, RN

“One day, I got called to the pre-op area because a patient was reluctant to move forward from pre-op to the OR. I learned when I got there that she came in with a head covering, and it was very important to her that she not pass by her family without being covered. But the initial response from the nurse was, ‘You’ve got to take everything off.’ So we provided cover for her so that she could maintain her cover, and we went into the OR, and it was no problem. But that is a good example of the nurse not really understanding why this woman did not want to move forward with going into the OR.”


The Future of DEIB in Healthcare

Having a diverse workforce is not a luxury. It is a necessity. The benefits positively impact not just BIPOC healthcare professionals, staff retention, culture, and profit margins but the quality of patient care. Having a healthcare provider that a patient can trust can improve health outcomes. Healthcare organizations would do well to continue brainstorming and developing DEIB initiatives to help survive the challenges ahead in perioperative services.

Carisa Brewster is the staff writer and media relations representative for Whitman Partners, a talent agency for surgical services directors. She has 20 years of experience as a news reporter covering science, medicine, and healthcare.


July 2024