Just three years after being established, the Black/African American Employee Resource Group (ERG) earned one of Arkansas Children’s highest honors – the One Team Value Award for Teamwork. The Black/African American ERG began as a kind of sanctuary to create a place “for Black/African American employees and allies to problem-solve, increase awareness of Black/African American cultural norms and cultivate Black/African American employee engagement.” Members of the ERG highlight celebrations and reflections on Martin Luther King Day, Juneteenth and during Black History Month. They also lead efforts focused on health equity and making Arkansas Children’s a welcoming and inclusive place for patients and families of all races and ethnicities every day of the year.
Through Triumphs and Tragedies
Creating a space for fellowship with others who share similar life experiences is the simple but profound first step for any Arkansas Children’s ERG. Anita Norfleet, B.S.N., R.N., C.P.N., at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), said, “The Black/African American ERG is important to me because it provides a sense of community and inclusiveness. It is a safe place for me at ACH.”
When April Robinson, B.S.N, R.N., C.P.N, founded and became a co-leader of the Black/African American ERG in 2019, one of the goals was to facilitate empowering conversations. Robinson and co-leader April Shepard, manager of radiology imaging at ACH, have achieved that goal despite pandemic restrictions that forced meetings to be held online. Together, in the safe space of the ERG, members lift each other up, recognizing accomplishments, like getting race and ethnicity surveys completed for every patient family during the month. This data is critical for researchers and decision-makers at the hospital to ensure patients of all races and ethnicities receive excellent health care for which Arkansas Children’s is known.
The Black/African American ERG also elevates and amplifies Black-owned businesses like those featured in the Hunt Family Café at Arkansas Children’s Northwest or the restaurateurs and food truck owners outside ACH during Black History Month.
Supporting one another also means members of the Black/African American ERG are present and sharing in the pain when another young Black man or woman is killed anywhere in the country. ERG members were among the facilitators of Arkansas Children’s listening circles after Tyre Nichols was killed in nearby Memphis. Sharing sorrows and joys lays the foundation for emotional safety among the members.
The emotional safety felt within the Black/African American ERG benefits all Arkansas Children’s team members and our patients and families. Safety comes from a sense of belonging. Respecting the unique features of multicultural hair – its cultural significance and physical qualities, like curliness or susceptibility to breakage – is one way to create that sense of belonging.
“The diverse hair care initiative was curated so that we would have tools and products in house that were accessible to our patients and families during their admission,” Robinson said.
The Black/African American ERG encouraged adding hair care products specifically designed for diverse hair types in the Playaway Gift Shop at ACH and for hospital departments to order. ERG members also collaborated with critical care team members on how to have conversations with patients and families regarding certain hair styles, like braids or ponytails, that could cause harm during long-term stays or during some procedures. Together, they created flyers for inpatient welcome packets that include important messages about multicultural hair.
From practical issues like diverse hair care to philosophical topics like the historical significance of Juneteenth, the Black/African American ERG promotes cultural awareness. The goal of honoring the past while creating a more inclusive future is woven into all these activities.
Members of the ERG who identify as allies of the Black and African American community say belonging and actively participating helps them be more effective allies. Celebrating the wins and being present for the unique challenges of Black and African American people creates empathy and encourages compassion, another core value at Arkansas Children’s. Together, the members are a model of the strength that comes from diversity. The Black/African American ERG is one of seven ERGs in our system. Each group offers a safe space for its members and contributes to making Arkansas Children’s a driving force behind making Arkansas the safest, healthiest place to be a kid.
Employee Resource Groups at Arkansas Children's
Arkansas Children's is committed to increasing and promoting diversity of our team members, while also improving the experience of inclusion and belonging to patients, families and employees.