Since January of this year, following concerns of systemic racism within our organization, we have accelerated our ongoing work to be an anti-racist organization and uphold our core value of equity. Though we’d made a formal commitment to anti-racism last summer, and subsequently launched our Anti-Racism Organizational Change and Accelerated Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan last fall, we recognize we must do more – and in greater collaboration.

The key to our transformation – and to the path ahead – lies in taking actions based on conversations and insights from our many stakeholders. We approach the gravity of this transformation and the opportunity to improve with humility in knowing we have not done enough – and our shortcomings have adversely impacted the kids and families we serve as well as our team. Upholding our commitment to anti-racism must be and will be the very fabric of Seattle Children’s future.

We have been in deep and ongoing listening mode so far this year and are grateful for the opportunity to engage in open dialogue to advance this important work. This includes connecting with Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic patients, families and supporters; our team members who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC); our patient-family advisory council members; and through broader health equity, diversity and inclusion listening sessions and workforce surveys.

Here are some key themes we have heard in these conversations as well as the actions we have underway or have accelerated:

Holding ourselves accountable to understand, identify and address equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism         

  • Last year, we elevated anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion as a strategic imperative for our entire health system. This means there is a dedicated executive leader and resources allocated to prioritize this important work and drive organization-wide change.
  • We’re launching a Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council that will include a diverse cross-section of our team as well as patient-families and community members to support progress by tracking outcomes and ensuring our goals are met.
  • Between November 2020 and March 2021, we conducted an organization-wide leadership and workforce summit series with a focus on equity to equip our leaders with information and tools to not only commit to change, but also foster dialogue and action around anti-racism across our entire organization. Starting this March and continuing through September 2021, all workforce members will participate in additional anti-racism learning sessions.
  • In addition, our Center for Diversity and Health Equity offers an array of consulting services to advise, identify trends, and track follow up on health inequities, social determinants of health, and concerns related to discrimination and racism.

 Increasing diversity in our workforce and leadership to reflect the patient communities we serve, improve outcomes and strengthen decision making

  • Between 2017 and the present, we have increased our overall employee diversity from 31.1% to 35.5%. During the same timeframe, our executive leadership diversity increased from 0% to 42%.
  • We’re making progress but recognize we still have important work to do, which is why we are focused on increasing diversity among our manager and director-level positions, among our RN Residency program applicants as well as among individuals recruited within our Research Division whose race or ethnicity are underrepresented.
  • In many cases, we have expanded our recruitment approach to encompass far beyond the Pacific Northwest region to prioritize hiring BIPOC team members. This includes Project NEW (national employed workforce) hires with an initial focus on Florida, Georgia and Texas, and where 70% of our participants are BIPOC. For onsite hard-to-fill positions, we are ensuring a national recruitment strategy, including relocating individuals from across the country to work at Seattle Children’s.
  • Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to transformative impact. Currently, more than 1,400 Seattle Children’s team members are in one or more of our seven Inclusion Networks. In 2020, we launched a new network for members of Pasifika communities and this year we are launching a network for our Asian community.

Updating and changing policies through an equity and anti-racist lens

  • One example of our work in this area is our recently adopted new Code Purple policy, which guides when and why our security and behavioral support team may be called to initiate a de-escalation response. This policy change is one important step in our work to examine the use of security and law enforcement at Seattle Children’s so that we are creating an environment of trust, healing and partnership.
  • We know exposure to negative interactions with law enforcement can cause children and patient families physical, cognitive, emotional and social trauma. That is why, with the input of a broad group of stakeholders, we are in the process of developing a new policy that will guide our workforce on how and when law enforcement should be engaged at Seattle Children’s. This work is a cornerstone of our organizational emphasis to create and maintain a physically and emotionally safe and healing community for all within our environment of care.
  • Derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate social media posts, even when posted on personal social media accounts, can adversely affect job performance and the work and care environment This is why we’ve updated our workforce social media policy to set expectations and accountability for both work and personal use.
  • We’re also in the process of developing an anti-racism policy for our workforce. This policy will be one important piece of our comprehensive work to dismantle institutional racism across Seattle Children’s. Looking to the future, we’ll continue to identify new and better ways to co-design policies and systems with patients, families, workforce members and our community.

Delivering equitable outcomes and eliminating health disparities

  • Equity is key to our overall commitment to patient safety. In fact, we are one of only a few hospitals in the U.S. that requires an equity framework and goal for all hospital metrics and outcomes. Our Center for Quality and Patient Safety further supports our work through visibility and transparency of outcomes data to drive accountability and continuous improvement.
  • We measure patient outcomes by race, ethnicity and language to identify where we have disparate outcomes and to improve how we deliver care. In addition, we are enhancing our clinical standard work and pathways with these data to help meet the unique needs of every patient.
  • We are working to reduce the number of missed appointments for patient populations who are disproportionately represented. To do this, we are working closely with community partners and family advisors to better understand the needs of the community; improving patient communication by updating our patient portals to languages other than English; and we have implemented an improved appointment reminder text message system in six languages other than English.
  • Another example is our work to reduce the number of central line-associated bloodstream infection or CLABSIs and disparities between patient populations. We use interpreter services in patient and family interactions, conduct equity reviews, and improve communication and education with patients and families.

Improving reporting resources for workforce and patients and families

  • In addition to existing patient and family experience surveys, we are actively exploring additional reporting resources for our patients and families to provide feedback in a way that is easy and feels safe.
  • We have also enhanced our workforce reporting tool so workforce members can confidentially and anonymously report if they witness or experience racism, discrimination or harassment.

Our executive leadership team is committed to sharing updates as we accelerate and expand our anti-racism work. Our hope is that by sharing the actions we’re taking and what we’re learning from our stakeholders, we’ll continue to become the Seattle Children’s we aspire to be.

In addition to our own ongoing work, we’re anticipating the findings and recommendations of an independent, external assessment, conducted by Covington & Burling. Our Board of Trustees formed an Assessment Committee in early 2021 and the committee selected Covington & Burling after a competitive process. We anticipate learning more from their assessment this summer. We plan to act on their findings to augment our work even further.

Racism is a public health crisis that impacts our patients and families, our team and our community. Seattle Children’s is wholly committed as a pediatric health system to dismantling systemic and institutional racism so we can fulfill our mission. As we continue to listen, learn and take action to become the equitable, anti-racist organization that our patients and families, our team, and our community need and deserve, we do so with humility and optimism that the work we do today can lead to a brighter, healthier and more equitable tomorrow for young people everywhere.