The University of Arizona College of Nursing has a history of striving to create an equitable learning and working environment for its diverse workforce and student body. But not until recently did it set those values in stone by creating an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) Task Force to engage the UArizona Nursing community in developing recommendations to improve individual and systemic inequities to advance Inclusive Excellence within our organization.
The Task Force was created during the tumultuous summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd stirred a national sense of urgency to address systemic barriers to equality. Dean Ki Moore approached Clinical Assistant Professor Timian Godfrey, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, and Senior Program Coordinator José Muñoz to see if they would lead the College’s efforts.
“As an organization dedicated to the education and training of our nation’s future nurses, healthcare providers, health system leaders, and researchers, we are uniquely positioned to greatly impact the lives and well-being of our patients, their families and communities in a meaningful way,” ~ Timian Godfrey, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
“It was humbling, and I understood the responsibility when I said yes to this charge,” Muñoz says. “It is critical to center ED&I at the core of our College and not just an afterthought. We need to be intentional and make it part of who we are. We are all functions of the system that we learn and live in; a system that has taught us how to think about ourselves and others, interact with others and understand what is expected of us.”
“As an organization dedicated to the education and training of our nation’s future nurses, healthcare providers, health system leaders, and researchers, we are uniquely positioned to greatly impact the lives and well-being of our patients, their families and communities in a meaningful way,” Dr. Godfrey says. “Also, as part of the Code of Ethics for Nurses, we have a commitment to society and social justice. If our graduates are expected to provide the highest quality care and address health disparities, then behaviors of inclusivity, cultural humility, and excellence must be modeled and taught during the educational experience.”
The need for action was clear and the ED&I Task Force quickly leaped into the process. The creation of the ED&I task Force was presented at the first College forum, when the opportunity to participate was opened up to all faculty and staff. The Task Force’s first meeting was in September. So far, a large part of the Task Force’s activity has focused on listening to the college community and learning about the various needs and growth opportunities. “This year has been the year of discovery to strategically think about how the College of Nursing can create an authentic environment in the long term,” Muñoz says, elaborating that the long-term goal is to develop an Office of ED&I for the College.
The ED&I Task Force identified four key areas – or pillars – where it plans to develop, recommend, and implement strategies, opportunities and increased visibility for advancing Inclusive Excellence across the broader UArizona Nursing community: Faculty/Staff Initiatives, Student Initiatives, Admissions/Curriculum Initiatives, and Community Engagement Initiatives. Achievements include the development of an ED&I website, an inclusive excellence statement, a pronoun statement, UArizona Nursing Values statements, customized diversity statement for job postings, ED&I resources for faculty and staff, and an ED&I strategic plan. Additionally, task force members, Chris Sogge and Jill Hagaman, have created a successful monthly ED&I lunch and learn for faculty and staff. The efforts are connected with the broader efforts going on throughout the University of Arizona Health Sciences community, including the UAHS LGBTQ+ group and the UAHS Office of ED&I.
“I’ve been fortunate to take part in all of the pillars and am amazed at the dedication, innovation, and progress that has been accomplished by the ED&I Task Force,” Dr. Godfrey says. “Highlighting the incredible nature of the Task Force, each member has voluntarily invested time and energy above and beyond their normal workload, with additional resource strain from the pandemic, to enhance ED&I at the CON.”
Dr. Godfrey is confident that ED&I will be normalized into the College’s daily work, routine, behavior and organization and she knows from personal experience how pivotal this work is. “As a Navajo, Hawaiian-Japanese woman from historically marginalized communities, I have personally witnessed the impact systemically created social determinants have on the health of populations,” she says. “I can also attest to the tremendous, positive change cultural humility and diversely representative care can have on the health of a community. Therefore, I am committed to creating education and learning experiences learning congruent with ED&I to improve health equity and health justice.”
Similarly, Muñoz’s background has driven his passion for issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. “I never got involved with diversity; diversity got involved with me,” he says. “As a Latino professional, I am used to navigating two worlds.” Growing up in the rural border town of Rio Rico, Ariz., he was fortunate to have a strong and supportive family that encouraged him to pursue his dreams. “Today, I am able to reap my parent’s sacrifice and perseverance,” he says. “But although times have changed, I still observe challenges my community and I endured – issues ranging from social class, immigration status, heritage language, and learning disabilities. As a whole, we have to pay more attention to populations that have been ignored for such a long time. I remain optimistic and hopeful. I am inspired by all other people who are also working for change.”
Thus far, the future looks bright for the Task Force and the success of ED&I efforts throughout the College. Faculty and staff are receptive to and eager for change and leadership has been encouraging. “We are having conversations with each other and with leadership,” Muñoz says. “My hopes for the task force are to continue to drive change and transition into the ED&I committee, eventually to continue to co-create and co-inspire an emerging future for our College that values the well-being of all.”
Dr. Godfrey echoes that sentiment: “Members of our community at the College of Nursing are truly incredible, and leadership has been so supportive in quality improvement initiatives around ED&I. If we keep the trajectory going, then I expect to see integration of ED&I into central processes, curriculum, and organizational structure. These adjustments and changes are needed to achieve Inclusive Excellence and there are so many people in the CON who are committed to making it happen.”
Learn more about the UArizona Nursing ED&I Task Force.
UArizona Nursing Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives & Resources.