New Role—and Big Goals—for Nursing's Equity and Inclusion Leader

Jul. 1, 2021
Meet Sheniece Griffin, Nursing Director for Equity and Inclusion in Nursing Practice

Sheniece L. Griffin, DNP, RN, CNL, is the University of Rochester Medical Center's newly appointed Nursing Director for Equity and Inclusion in Nursing Practice. The role may be brand-new to her—and to the system—but she has valuable professional and personal experiences to draw on. She knows UR Medicine and its people well: Griffin has been a nurse for 11 years, all of it within UR Medicine.

She began her career as a student nurse patient care technician at Highland Hospital; most recently, she has been a Clinical Care Manager for Primary Care Network. She began her new role June 16. And she was born, bred, and educated in the Rochester area, so she knows the wider community well. 

In May, Griffin graduated from the University of Rochester School of Nursing's Doctor of Nursing Practice program after successfully defending her scholarly project, Evaluating and Improving Complex Care Management for High-Risk Patients in a Patient-Centered Medical Home Primary Care Practice. Her project focused on evaluating and improving the existing complex care management program in a patient-centered medical home primary care practice for adult patients. 

How do you feel about taking on this challenge? 

It’s exciting. One interesting aspect is that there’s no blueprint for this role, since it is newly created. I will be drawing the blueprint!

How will you get started? What will your focus be? 

My first priority will be information-gathering by actively listening—I’ll be gathering data and feedback from departments and their stakeholders to get a sense of what their current state is, and what we need to do to improve. I’m interested in what is frustrating people and what they see as our strengths as well. From there I’ll develop an action plan based on what I learn.

How do you see this role advancing the quality of care—and workplace satisfaction—for employees?

For staff, being in a diverse atmosphere where everyone feels valued and respected is a key factor that makes people want to stay in a workplace, and helps them do their best work. The goal is to be sure that everyone’s voice is heard. For the patient population, quality of care we provide is essential; having a lack of diversity can adversely affect quality and safety. We have some work to do here because our staff does not currently reflect the diverse community we’re serving. Patients are more forthcoming when they can relate to the group of people that are caring for them.

Who will you be working with?

This will be a wide and inclusive group—Chief Nursing Executive Karen Keady, Senior Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion  Adrienne Morgan, the Professional Nursing Council, Nursing Recruitment, Human Resources, and Chief Nursing Information Officer Rosemary Ventura, since much of what I’ll be doing will be data-driven. In addition, I’ll be working with my counterparts in all clinical departments at the Medical Center: URMFG, Ambulatory Medicine, the Primary Care Network. Every major department will have a diversity representative that will work collaboratively to ensure that all parts of the Medical Center are engaged and represented.

What are some examples of what needs improvement? 

In speaking with Chief Patient Experience Officer and Senior Director of the I CARE Commitment Jackie Beckerman, she told me an experience that stuck with me. The hospital had taken pictures of staff throughout the pandemic, and at the one-year mark, she was reviewing photos to create recognition posters. She found that it was difficult to find photos of staff that fully represent diversity across all job roles in the Medical Center. I want that to change.

And by "diversity" I am not just thinking of diverse races/ethnicities; we are also underrepresented in LGBTQ+, the deaf community, and so many other groups. It’s not just our visible “diversity” that is an essential component; it’s our skill sets, what we bring to the table—our perspectives and insights on caring for people who are also diverse. I want every community to come together at Strong Memorial and be part of the workforce.

It still happens that medical providers of color encounter patients who want to be treated by a white person and actually request that.

That has personally happened to me, I was the nurse and was asked not to care for the patient because of the color of my skin. I am a confident person and I resolved that with the patient and provided the care. I feel people in health care have to learn how to speak up, and have that confidence when caring for diverse patients. I have a strong backbone; and feel that is needed to be successful in this new role.

What would you say are the advantages URMC has in place now to position us for this work? 

The Medical Center has building blocks in place—the Equity & Anti-Racism Action Plan is a starting point. Nursing practice is using that as their template to reflect on what’s available for nurses at the Medical Center. We do have opportunity to grow. Simulation activities that put individuals in uncomfortable situations that they can roleplay, to help people reflect on where we are and where we need to go—this is a way to get everyone involved in looking at the challenges, and actively finding solutions.

What would you tell staff they can do to support this effort? 

Being aware of their own biases and stereotypes. We all have unconscious biases. If we’re conscious of our thinking, and willing to change, we all have something powerful to bring. Practicing cultural humility—being humble about our own culture and being able to respect other cultures—is important. We have to be a team, and diverse teams drive innovation.

Can you look ahead 5 or 10 years and tell me what you would like to see change? What does success look like? 

I hope to be able to walk into Strong Memorial Hospital and not only see a change—different faces that show diversity—but see that the change goes much deeper, beyond the surface level. It will be a change in the way people feel when they come to work. They will be able to say, “I feel like I’m valued, appreciated, respected.” I want the essence of the culture to change; it will be a different vibe when they come in.