Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 23, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Scarborough Hospital, The / TSH was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- The Scarborough Hospital maintains an Organizational Development and Diversity department, which focuses on three areas: identifying barriers patients face in accessing the hospital and its services; creating an equitable and inclusive work environment for staff; and building community connections and partnerships to ensure patients and families have access to required resources outside the hospital
- The Scarborough Hospital supports the recruitment of new Canadian job-seekers and hosted a one day conference to encourage internationally educated professionals (IEP) to explore career options in healthcare -- also hires IEPs as volunteers, to provide Canadian work experience, and created Career Compass, a resource to help IEPs and staff learn about a variety of clinical and non-clinical opportunities in health care
- The Scarborough Hospital established a Global Community Resource Centre, a source of current health and community information in variety of languages and formats -- the Centre is staffed by volunteers and representatives from 14 Scarborough community agencies, and visitors can attend workshops twice a month on subjects like patients' rights, elder abuse, finding appropriate housing and employment
"Achieving our vision starts with building a strong, enlightened and diverse workforce and with working in partnership with our stakeholders, rather than making assumptions about what their needs might be." Carol S., Organization Development Specialist
At The Scarborough Hospital, a diverse view of diversity
At The Scarborough Hospital in eastern Toronto, there is a commitment to delivering outstanding care to a diverse and vulnerable population, which is "simply part of our DNA," says President and CEO Robert Biron.
As Biron notes, Scarborough is one of Canada's most diverse communities. Its 625,000 residents encompass a broad range of the world's nationalities, ethnicities and religions as well as varying levels of socioeconomic status. Some 59 per cent of the population is foreign-born. Many are recent arrivals in Canada.
"The community has changed dramatically from what it was in the 1960s and 1970s," he says. "The Scarborough Hospital really took this to heart, and as the community changed, the hospital changed its practices in terms of patient care delivery to ensure we had a workforce that was able to respond to the needs of our patients."
Twenty years ago, the hospital was among the first in Canada to dedicate a department and a director to meet the needs of its diverse community. Today, the hospital's vision is "to be recognized as Canada's leader in providing the best health care for a global community." Diversity, equity and inclusion are key priorities within the organization's strategic plan. Biron says a hospital must mirror the community it serves. "When you look at our staff, it's very diverse," he says. "We have individuals from all walks of life and coming from all corners of the globe. This allows us to improve patient experiences and patient outcomes by deeply understanding each person's unique needs."
Staff who speak multiple languages provide support right at the bedside. The hospital also offers specialized meals and has enhanced its patient gown options to offer more modesty. Biron notes, however, that "our definition of diversity and equity goes beyond the traditional scope of culture and ethnicity to include differences such as age, gender, sexual orientation, language, ability, socioeconomic status and religion."
For management, training in leading a diverse workforce and becoming bias aware is mandatory. Staff and volunteers are offered regular learning opportunities on equity and inclusion issues, such as working with a disability, LGBT terminology, and understanding mental illness. Importantly, in their performance reviews, management and staff are evaluated on creating an equitable working environment. These efforts have led to a dramatic rise in employee engagement scores on the hospital's Employee Opinion Survey, where diversity was identified as a key strength.
Another hallmark of the hospital's globally minded approach is its support for internationally educated professionals, known as IEPs. When he arrived from Egypt in 2011, pharmacist and informatics expert Samer Elamrousy was like so many IEPs who come to Canada - caught in the Catch-22 of needing Canadian experience to get a job while needing a job to get Canadian experience.
The Scarborough Hospital took him on in 2012 as a volunteer, and welcomed his ideas for creating a database at the hospital's newly-opened Global Community Resource Centre. The centre works in partnership with community agencies in Scarborough to support patients and families with increased health literacy and better access to community services. "This experience was very beneficial for me in my career, and I think I added value to the centre," says Elamrousy.
After gaining a master's in health informatics at the University of Toronto, Elamrousy joined the permanent staff at the hospital in 2014 as an Information Specialist in the Organizational Development department. Soon, he will take the board exams in pharmacy in order to pursue a combined career in his two fields.
Elamrousy says that as an IEP he was impressed by a hospital resource called "Career Compass" that outlines for newcomers the roles they might pursue in healthcare, and what is required. "This was very innovative," he says.
"This place means so much to me," he says of the hospital. "Working in this inclusive environment, you really feel welcomed personally and are able to grow professionally."