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 William Osler Health System was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- William Osler Health System manages a corporate Diversity Advisory Council (DAC), comprised of employees from across the organization who implement related programs and policies within their respective departments -- the DAC recently implemented rotating co-chairs to increase engagement and share additional diverse perspectives, and publishes monthly diversity newsletters to keep members apprised of best practices
- Approximately 70 William Osler Health System employees volunteer as Diversity Change Champions, responsible for adopting diversity and equity best practices and contributing towards the development of diversity within their respective fields -- champions efforts' are promoted internally
- William Osler Health System recently created a new multi-disciplinary LGBTQ Advisory Group, comprised of clinical and non-clinical staff -- the group hosted an equity forum for staff and physicians and is currently developing guidelines for working with and caring for LGBTQ communities
At William Osler, the 'whole person' comes first
As a medical student, Dr. Naheed Dosani was taught that patients with nerve-related pain will typically describe the sensation using words like "burning" or "shooting." But since joining the staff of William Osler Health System in July 2014, he has discovered that that lesson was far from complete.
"People from different cultures can have very different attitudes toward illness and pain so they'll use different terminology when describing what they're feeling," says Dosani, a palliative care physician. "I've learned on the job that some patients may say that they're sore, sad, scared or feel like they are falling apart. You have to check your preconceptions at the door and meet people where they are at."
Osler, located in the western regions of the Greater Toronto Area, is one of the largest community hospitals in Canada, providing an extensive range of acute care, outpatient and community-based services. Two sites, Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General Hospital, serve a population that is among the fastest growing and most diverse in the country. More than half of the 1.3 million people in Osler's coverage area are visible minorities, nearly half are newcomers to Canada and one third of them do not speak English at home.
Understanding and appreciating the nuances of patients' vocabularies is just one of many ways that Osler demonstrates its commitment to diversity and inclusivity every day. Along with a staff that reflects the heterogeneity of its surrounding communities, Osler has wide-ranging policies, procedures and programs that are respectful of the fact that everyone has unique needs, preferences, concerns and values. It's a patient-inspired model of care that focuses on the whole person, not just the complaint that precipitated the hospital visit.
"We are committed to providing equitable and accessible quality heath care in an environment where everyone feels safe, welcome and included," says Susan deRyk, Vice President of Patient Experience, Communications and Strategy. "That's regardless of one's beliefs, culture, religion, race, ethnicity, age, gender, language, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status."
This commitment is ingrained throughout Osler - including at the top. The president and senior leadership team helm a diversity executive council that is responsible for ensuring the organization follows through with its equity goals and priorities, and allocating resources.
As well, some 5,000 employees, 850 physicians and 1,200 volunteers participate in numerous diversity advisory councils and forums, providing continuous input and advice into Osler's policies and practices. This includes a new multidisciplinary LGBTQ Advisory Group and a Women's Advisory Group of clinical and non-clinical staff. Still other employees volunteer as diversity change champions.
Dosani sees a direct link between Osler's singular approach to diversity and how well patients fare at the Palliative/Pain and Symptom Management Clinic where he works. The clinic takes an interdisciplinary approach, meaning patients can also access support, as needed, from a social worker, advanced practice nurse, dietitian and a range of hospital and community resources. Given that many in the surrounding communities come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the need is great.
"The overall goal of the healthcare system is to improve the well-being and health outcomes of our patient population," says Dosani. "But we know from a strong body of research that the social determinants of health like income, housing and food security are actually the most important in improving overall health outcomes. Access to medical care is often lower on that list and if you're only focusing on medical treatment, you're probably missing the big picture.
"Fortunately," he says, "this organization is truly committed to diversity, inclusivity and health equity. It's etched into the identity of who we all are."
Diversity and equity are fundamental values at Osler. And they are far from static. They are constantly evolving and, in the process, offer much in return. "Diversity and equity make us richer," says deRyk. "They open us to new and valuable experiences and expand our thinking around what's possible."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada's Best Diversity Employers winners, published February 24, 2016 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.