Next week, as we do every year, we will celebrate the 4th of July and the birth of this great country. And when we celebrate America, we celebrate diversity. One reason is that for most of us, our family’s American experience is the immigrant experience, whether our relatives came from England in 1620, from Ghana in 1760, Ireland in 1850, China in 1880, Italy in 1910, Mexico in 1980, or India, Ukraine or the Dominican Republic in 2000. Representing many cultures, speaking many languages, newly arrived immigrants have fought in America’s wars, have built America’s railroads and America’s cities, created scientific breakthroughs that saved the lives of many and have contributed their particular genius to shape every facet of the life we live today.
The phenomenon of America’s “melting pot” continues to this day. Right here at Lifespan, nearly 2,400 employees are bilingual or multi-lingual in one or more of 65 languages other than English. Every year we assess our workforce to make sure that it adequately reflects the diversity of our community, and we set specific goals to help us achieve that. Our patients speak a variety of dialects and to ensure that we provide appropriate care, our medical interpreters speak Spanish, Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole, Khmer, Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Russian, and French. We also have Language Line telephones in every hospital unit, which can connect staff with professional interpreters who speak more than 150 additional languages. Living Lifespan’s mission of Delivering health with care requires us to communicate well with our patients but it also requires us to understand the cultural differences that affect a patient’s perception of their illness and of the care we provide. That is one of the reasons we require all employees at Lifespan to complete cultural sensitivity training as part of working here—it furthers our efforts at patient-centered care.
But diversity in this nation (and at Lifespan) extends beyond one’s country of origin—it also includes other differences: religion, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. All these things shape our understanding, perspective, outlook and expectations of one another and our patients. Practically speaking, each of us needs to make every effort to understand and appreciate these differences in order to create a collegial work environment and to provide the best care for our patients. At Lifespan, we support and celebrate diversity in a variety of ways, including our employee resource groups, scheduling educational events such as tomorrow’s symposium at Rhode Island Hospital on diversity and health care, and by participating in events such as last weekend’s RI PrideFest. Our goal in all these efforts is to make sure everyone has a voice and is heard, that every patient is treated with respect, and that every employee has an opportunity to advance in his or her career.
Every 4th of July, we celebrate the birth of this country—young and old, every race and every creed. As we enter this long-awaited summer season, I hope you will be able to find time off with family and friends. The work we do every day is vital, but it is also stressful, and taking time to re-charge our batteries makes us better and more compassionate at what we do. I would like to wish all of you a happy 4th—and for those of you who are working that day, caring for our patients, I extend an extra bit of gratitude.
In the steadfast pursuit of excellence, I remain,
Timothy J. Babineau, MD
President, CEO of Lifespan
President, Rhode Island Hospital