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Atrium Health Recognized for DEI Infrastructure

The system’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts elevate its dedication to its mission.

Atrium Health has ranked No. 1 as the best place in the nation for women and diverse managers to work by Diversity MBA magazine, after almost two decades of consistent effort.

Fernando Little, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based health system’s enterprise vice president and chief diversity officer, credits their success to their four-pillared diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda as being tied to the organization’s mission: To improve health, elevate hope, and advance healing for all: patients, teammates, learners, and community.

When incidents of racial or social injustice arise, their longstanding DEI agenda strengthens the system’s posture in the communities they serve, Little said.

“I believe because our agenda has been around for so long it enabled us to respond to those instances with a sense of urgency, with a sense of compassion, but also with a plan to channel the emotion into a productive purpose,” he said.

Over the years, Little said, Atrium Health has intentionally addressed its culture and the values ​​that shape it by seeking input from team members. In addition to the system’s DEI efforts, team members also noted the sense of belonging they felt as being a part of the organization’s overall culture.

The system’s office of diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to build on its DEI infrastructure which includes councils and resource groups for the different demographics team members belong to. Champions – team members who complete a diversity certificate program – often help further facilitate learning throughout the organization.

The first council was put together almost 20 years ago, consisting of five physicians of color who wanted to put on a diversity symposium for providers to discuss cultural competence and the importance of diversity in the healthcare industry. Since then, 10,000 team members are involved in either a council or resource group.

“The reality is the demographic of our country is rapidly changing, and if you think about just the nation right now, the demographic makeup of where we are today is going to be different 10, 20, 30 years from now,” Little said. “It’s incumbent for healthcare organizations to keep up with that because there is a correlation to when your organization reflects the diversity of their patient population, [giving] you a competitive lift in terms of addressing health equity, eliminating health disparities, and making sure that there’s cultural competence in care delivery. “

Atrium Health continues to work to increase its organizational capability and accountability regarding its workforce reflecting the diversity of its patient population. In 2021, the office of diversity, equity, and inclusion implemented executive dashboards that showed each executives workforce and hierarchy so that they could track diversity in promotions, hirings, rate of turnover, as well as pay equity, engagement, and recognition in real time .

Being able to pinpoint the areas that needed work, the executives are then able to develop a plan of action with the assistance the team in Little’s office.

The system has also incorporated DEI efforts into its Impact 2025 strategic plan.

“There’s this bold goal to transformative equity in terms of our leadership ranks and to make sure our workforce reflects the diversity of our patient population,” Little said. “Particularly our executive leadership ranks. By it being part of our Impact 2025 plan, it now is a measure for leaders and it can be tied into performance and incentive goal, and I think that’s a bold step that Atrium Health made in terms of its accountability. “

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