In this turbulent political landscape and with the recent surge of terrorist events, racial tension with law enforcement and the tragic shootings of members of the LGBTQ community in Orlando, providing equitable health care and creating an inclusive and respectful work environment is a common mission that unites us all in the health care industry. Below is an email that our CEO, Jack Lynch, FACHE, shared with Main Line Health employees and Medical Staff earlier this week on the importance of mutual respect.
Recently we received a timely inquiry from a member of our team that I want to share with you:
“With the recent events regarding shootings across our country and with the ongoing presidential campaigns, emotions can become very heated. I have observed this among staff and have also overheard conversations in the waiting area among patients. What is the best way to handle this so that hard feelings aren't created among co-workers and also to minimize what patients are subjected to hearing from other patients while waiting for appointments?”
There is no question that, for the past several months, recent national tragedies and contentious political discussions have dominated the news. These headlines have resulted in a national dialogue with local repercussions, and we may find ourselves in conversations with friends, family, and even co-workers that quickly become polarizing.
We have witnessed tragedies involving unarmed African Americans and law enforcement. Police officers have been the target of violent retaliation in a number of communities. The brutal murders of members of the LGBTQ community in Orlando left us grief-stricken. Internationally, we have seen horrific slayings in Germany and France. All of this comes on top of the continued terrorist activity throughout the world.
In health care, we are distinctively positioned during this time of intense public discourse. Our compassionate, life-saving work transcends political beliefs, hate and the news of the day for the patients who trust us with their health and healing. For the breast cancer survivor arriving for her routine mammogram, her most pressing thought is, “Will the images show I am still cancer free?” For the parent arriving to the Emergency Department at two in the morning with a one-year-old with labored breathing and a fever, the only thought on their mind is, “What is wrong with my baby?” For the senior couple leaving the cardiologist’s office, the question they are anxiously weighing may be, “How will we be able to afford yet another prescription?” Each one of us plays a key role in delivering compassion and expertise to appropriately address these fears.
Similarly, each one of us plays a role in fostering a culture of Diversity, Respect and Inclusion where all our patients and coworkers feel welcome and valued. This standard—a core value of our mission at Main Line Health—is outlined in several organizational documents and policies including Code of Conduct, Staff Assignments and Staff Rights, and Patient Rights and Responsibilities that reinforce treating all with respect, dignity, equity and kindness. As our colleague who shared the eFeedback thoughtfully points out, our reliance on these values is tremendously important in light of the current events taking place in the world around us.
Achieving a culture of respect requires thoughtful participation from every one of us to eradicate insensitive or inappropriate language, gestures or actions. For example, slang words related to race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation—no matter the context—are offensive, unkind, disrespectful and unacceptable in a culture of healing and respect and can result in termination. Just two weeks ago, an employee from an area health system was the center of a social media firestorm and the subject of numerous news stories after using hate speech on her personal social media page. Within a day, the employee no longer worked for that organization. Unfortunately, we have also experienced instances of inappropriate social media postings and use of offensive language at work that have resulted in employee terminations. Just as each of us is expected to speak up for safety, we must hold each other accountable and speak up for respect.
While we can’t control the external forces beyond the walls of Main Line Health, each of us is empowered and able to make a difference in the lives of the thousands of patients who rely on us daily to provide equitable and life-saving care, as well as in the lives of our 10,000 co-workers who have dedicated themselves to serving others. To these individuals, we should remain a steady beacon of strength, kindness and hope.
I ask that we all continue to stay focused on helping to improve the health of the communities we serve and on demonstrating respect in all our interactions with each other and our patients. Please join me in keeping the victims of violence—and their families—as well as all individuals who face unjust treatment, in our thoughts and prayers.
Jack Lynch, FACHE
President & CEO