It was just days after George Floyd’s murder in late May when BSN student Sydney Tweedy got the email: a new anti-racism work group had been formed at the School, seeking to turn good intentions around race and justice into meaningful action.
For Tweedy, there was no question she’d take part.
“All patients deserve equal, unbiased, quality care, and a nurse who will advocate for them if they aren’t being treated fairly,” said Tweedy, of Amherst, Va. “I’ve always wanted to be that nurse and, during the last three months, I’ve gained the knowledge, skills, insight, and courage so that I will be that nurse."
“There’s a lot that’s going on in the world, but this is foundational work for nurses at every moment, no matter the political context or news cycle.”Tomeka Dowling, assistant professor and BSN program director
With Susan Kools, associate dean for diversity and inclusion and founder of the (IDEA), and Theresa Carroll, senior assistant dean for admissions and student services, Tweedy and dozens of peers met weekly over the internet platform Zoom to discuss race, justice, health disparities, difficult conversations, and privilege, expanding on the equity work that’s been a curricular thread since IDEA’s 2015 founding and even before. Soon, sub-groups formed around topics in implicit bias, integrating LGBTQ+ content into curricula, training in how to have uncomfortable conversations with people with different perspectives, and ways to confront racism and bias in clinical settings with patients, peers, and healthcare colleagues. In addition to these groups, faculty and staff were given a summer anti-racism study guide, and small groups of students, faculty, and staff met to read and discuss White Fragility, by Robin DeAngelo, the first of several opportunities to engage in a common reading.
Floyd’s murder wasn’t exactly the genesis for the work, explained Tomeka Dowling, BSN program director and an assistant professor, but it did provide powerful context for poignant, sometimes uncomfortable discussions about racism, equity, social justice, and health disparities.
“There’s a lot that’s going on in the world,” said Dowling, whose summer orientation sessions for undergraduates included “Stepping In For Respect” training to address bias and disrespect in the clinical setting and implicit bias education, “but this is foundational work for nurses at every moment, no matter the political context or news cycle.”
For Carroll, whose eight-member implicit bias work group continues to meet this fall, the work is seminal training for nurses and nursing faculty and something students ask and are hungry for.
“Our student population more and more reflects the population of the communities we serve,” said Carroll, “so there’s a power in voices we didn’t always have before, and that’s exciting to see how students are pushing us in so many good ways.”
“It’s why this is work that people like me have to do,” Carroll added, “because I don’t have 250 years of exhaustion sitting on my shoulders the way some of our students do. And because the privilege afforded to me over time means I should be working even harder to make up for that in every way that I can, even if they’re small.”
This year's #HoosInclusive campaign is changing for the times, and going (largely) virtual. Starting October 5, a banner posted in McLeod Hall will feature the School's new inclusivity pledge:
We acknowledge our complicity in perpetuating the unfortunate history of medical inequality, and are working to build an environment of true inclusivity and cultural humility. UVA School of Nursing does not tolerate racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or discrimination of any kind. We pledge to abide by this statement.
From October 5 to 16, 2020, members of the community will be asked to share how they're building or plan to build an environment of true inclusivity and cultural humility, posting an image of themselves with an action they plan to take and sending it to Emerson Aviles, IDEA program manager, with #HoosInclusive in the subject line. Images will be posted on the banner and shared on the School's social media pages.