Rush Works to Ensure All Are Welcome

Padraic_StanleyBy Padraic Stanley

What can we do as an institution to make sure Rush is a welcoming place for everyone? How can we ensure Rush is a safe place for patients to heal, for staff and providers to thrive, and for students to excel?

The answer is difficult and complex, and it’s going to take all of us working together. Thankfully, we have our I CARE values to ground us. This year, Rush participated in the YMCA’s Welcoming Week through a campaign that highlighted the different ways Rush is becoming more welcoming for everyone. The idea behind the Y’s campaign is to remind us that our communities are much “stronger and more vibrant when everyone feels welcome and can fully contribute their unique talents for the greater good.” The Y’s initiative offers integration support to immigrants so they can thrive and contribute to the overall strength of the community.

Rush is taking on a similar commitment to being a welcoming health care institution, led by some of our most innovative and passionate staff, and all are working together to make sure Rush is a welcoming place — for everyone. Becoming a welcoming institution involves not only being kind and helpful, but also going the extra mile to ensure people feel welcome and safe while they are here, and even helping to empower them outside of our walls. I would love for any Rush student or employee to take some time to reflect and think about how they can be more welcoming to everyone at Rush.

Following are some key approaches we’ve taken to implement our welcoming work here at Rush:

Immigrants and refugees

The Rush Immigrant Health Working Group works on improvements in policy, practice and operations that help make Rush a more immigrant-friendly institution, helping to ease the fears our immigrant patients face while seeking health care. The group is also working on educational initiatives for staff to provide more competent and informed care to our undocumented patients, as well as for patients to inform them of their rights and how to navigate the health care system. To learn more about the Rush Immigrant Health Working Group, reach out to me at padraic_stanley@rush.edu.

LGBTQ and gender nonconforming patients

For the 11th consecutive year, Rush University Medical Center has been recognized as a Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index — and for the first year, all three system hospitals were included on this prestigious list. The Rush LGBTQ Leadership Council oversees Rush’s overarching LGBTQ strategies under the Diversity Leadership Council including instituting best LGBTQ practices across the system such as education for providers, staff and students as well as advocating for policy changes and institutional LGBTQ improvements across the Rush System.

Over the past five years, the council has overseen the inclusion of sexual orientation/gender identity in the electronic health record, created open and welcoming visitation policies and guidelines, included sexual orientation and gender identity into Rush’ nondiscrimination policies, and has championed comprehensive transgender health benefits for Rush employees and other beneficiaries.

In addition, the council facilitated new all-gender restroom signage and has trained more than 1,500 individuals in general LGBTQ competency. To learn more about the LGBTQ Health Committee, contact Christopher Nolan, MPA, at christopher_nolan@rush.edu or Brandy Hatcher, NP, at brandy_j_hatcher@rush.edu.

Older adults

The Rush Center for Excellence in Aging (CEA) anticipates and responds to the needs of older adults, their families and caregivers, primarily focusing on research, older adult and family care, education, community health equity and health policy. The CEA’s focus areas are meant to enhance Rush’s ability to improve the health and well-being of older adults and their families. Most recently, the CEA has taken the lead in Rush’s efforts to become the first hospital in Illinois to receive a designation as an Age-Friendly Healthcare System. To learn more about the Rush Center for Excellence in Aging, reach out to Erin Emery-Tiburcio, PhD, ABPP, at erin_emery-tiburcio@rush.edu, Robyn Golden, AM, LCSW, at robyn_l_golden@rush.edu, and Michelle Newman, MPH, at michelle_h_newman@rush.edu.

People with disabilities

Rush has made a commitment to recruit and hire qualified individuals with physical, mental and sensory disabilities/chronic health conditions, which serves its goal of having a diverse workforce that reflects the communities that Rush serves. In 2019, the Rush Disabilities Employee Resource Group was launched, and since 1991, the Rush ADA Task Force has developed and implemented policies for people with disabilities and educated the Rush community about accommodating people with disabilities as employees, students, faculty members and patients. Rush was also named one of the Best Places to Work for Disability and Inclusion based on high scores it achieved in the 2019 Disability Equality Index. To learn more about the ADA Task Force and the Rush Disabilities Employee Resource Group, reach out to Kevin Irvine at kevin_irvine@rush.edu or Carlos Olvera at carlos_a_olvera@rush.edu.

West Side residents

In addition to its ongoing community engagement efforts, Rush University Medical Center is welcoming to its communities on the West Side by being a part of the West Side United collaborative. Rush’s involvement in this multi-hospital approach allows us to play a pivotal role in all of its initiatives ranging from health care, education, economic vitality, and neighborhood and physical environment. It has also allowed Rush to play an integral part in offering business grants to community nonprofits and startups, making strides in hiring intentionally from the West Side, joining other hospitals to create evidence-based and community-focused health programming, and setting an intentional footprint in recruiting more West Side youth into internship programming. To learn more about West Side United, contact Ayesha Jaco, executive director at ajaco@westsideunited.org or Karen Aguirre, MPH, at kaguirre@westsideunited.org.

Padraic Stanley, LCSW, is program coordinator for Social Work & Community Health at Rush University Medical Center.

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