All twelve Sentara hospitals have earned Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality status in the 2020 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) survey, a national LGBTQ benchmarking tool from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
HEI evaluates individual healthcare facilities’ policies and practices as they relate to the equity and inclusion of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning patients, visitors and employees. Leader status is HEI’s highest designation and can only be attained by earning a top score of 100 in the 2020 HEI survey.
Sentara hospitals’ top scores make them members of an exclusive club in Virginia. Only four other facilities in the Commonwealth hold Leader status. Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, located in Elizabeth City, N.C. joins 20 other facilities in North Carolina with Leader status.
“Sentara is a community leader. Everyone who enters a Sentara facility, whether that’s for work, care, or just to visit, should know they are welcome, safe, valued, and will receive the highest quality of care,” said Dana Beckton, Chief Diversity Officer, who joined the organization to head Sentara’s newly-created Diversity and Inclusion Department in 2019. Beckton and her team partnered with leaders across the organization to identify and implement changes to make a real impact on the health and wellbeing of Sentara’s LGBTQ employees, patients, and community members. To help move the needle, Sentara team members across the system, including more than 60 division leaders, completed over 360 hours of HEI training.
Leaders also collaborated to ensure policies, processes and practices across the organization are LGBTQ-inclusive. For example, Sentara added language on its advanced care planning webpage to be more inclusive when discussing health care agents. Sentara also created a public LGBTQ directory to give patients the ability to find Sentara doctors and providers who have experience caring for LGBTQ individuals without having to ask for a referral. Additionally, leaders created internal patient access guidelines that detail specific LGBTQ-friendly policies and processes that ensure compliance with privacy laws, address issues such as restroom access, and outline procedures for handling potential problems with insurance and billing claims for transgender patients.
Other changes that helped Sentara earn a top score include updating the language in its bereavement leave policy for team members, creating a new policy to detail rights and resources for transgender employees and those who are transitioning, and publishing an internal toolkit to promote transgender inclusion in the workplace.
“As a healthcare system with a mission to improve health every day, Sentara Healthcare knows that we must be inclusive for all community members and our team to enjoy health and wellness. I am proud of the work we have done to date to create a sense of belonging at Sentara,” said Becky Sawyer, Chief Human Resources Officer.
The news of Sentara’s top score comes at a pivotal time in history. Both the signing of the Virginia Values Act in April and a Supreme Court ruling in June have expanded anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ individuals within the Commonwealth and nationwide.
“While we are proud to earn this designation, we know that the journey toward equity and inclusion is not over. We must continue to evolve over time, and we will seek and act on opportunities that build upon our commitment to creating a more inclusive Sentara,” Beckton said.
In addition to being a Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality, Sentara Healthcare is also proud to partner with local LGBTQ organizations like Hampton Roads Pride in Norfolk, Va. and Shenandoah Valley Pride in Harrisonburg, Va. to promote wellness and wellbeing for LGBTQ community members.
About the Human Rights Campaign and the 2020 HEI
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
2020 HEI scoring criteria are rigorous. To earn a top score and Leader designation, participating facilities are required to demonstrate that they:
Practice non-discrimination and provide training for team members; Implement LGBTQ-inclusive patient services and support; Offer LGBTQ-inclusive employee policies and benefits, including at least one company-wide health insurance plan that affirmatively provides transgender-inclusive coverage; and Participate in patient and community engagement.
For more information about the HRC or 2020 HEI, visit www.hrc.org.