Wednesday, August 18, 2021

DAC, DEI, and Determination: Reflecting on My Summer with NHPCO

Before starting my accelerated nursing program at Emory University this fall, I knew that I wanted to spend my summer contributing to advancing equity in the healthcare field. I believed that the more I learned as I prepared to embark on a new career as a nurse serving traditionally underserved communities, the better equipped I would be to understand—and meet—the needs of my future patients. As a volunteer with Bristol Hospice while living in San Diego, I learned so much about the hospice and palliative care models after 10 hours of training modules and interacting with individuals living in care facilities. So, when I saw the opportunity to intern with NHPCO in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion pop up, I jumped at the chance to apply, and was surprised and unbelievably excited when I was selected as NHPCO’s first DEI intern.

Getting to collaborate with the Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) this summer on so many critical projects has provided me with invaluable knowledge and a deeper understanding of the gaps in hospice care across the country and for communities that are traditionally left out or mistrustful of the American medical system. From the self-bias that is evidenced in the disconnect between hospices’ stated commitment to DEI initiatives and the tangible implementation of such programs to the unique challenges that different groups face in obtaining access to hospice care, I have learned more in the past 3.5 months than I could ever adequately sum up in words.

Among the many wonderful opportunities I have been given this summer, a few have stood out clearly as some of my favorites: writing the script for the LGBTQ+ Social Media Takeover Day in celebration of Pride Month, getting to compose questions and interview DAC Chair Nicole McCann-Davis for an upcoming NHPCO podcast on addressing accessibility and overcoming barriers to hospice and palliative care, attending many conferences and webinars like the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, participating as a constituent of my community at Virtual Hill Day, and helping to author a comment letter on equity to the Office of Management and Budget on behalf of DAC and NHPCO. I also was given the chance to join forces with NHPCO’s two other summer interns, Allan Hegedus and Sarah Vizzeswarapu, to write a one-pager summarizing Quality Connections data in support of PCHETA, the CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, and the Telehealth Modernization Act. While getting to assist with such important projects, I also worked with some of the most amazing people: Annie Acs and Trayvia Watson were incredible mentors (and always at the ready to field my many questions!), and the rest of the NHPCO staff was equally welcoming and kind (and understanding of confusion about various acronyms)!

One of the biggest takeaways I’ve learned from watching DAC in action is that to foster necessary changes that are intersectional and inclusive, working together and making space for all voices to weigh in is what ultimately leads to desired outcomes. As efforts like the upcoming Latinx/LGBTQ+ Focus Groups and Fall Social Media Takeover continue in full swing, I know that the Council will meet and exceed the objectives of these and countless other endeavors.

Leaving NHPCO is so bittersweet for me; while I am sad that my internship is ending, I am so excited to begin my nursing career, joining the likes of NHPCO’s Lori Bishop and Jennifer Kennedy on achieving my goal to become an RN. I am so thankful for my time here and look forward to seeing all that NHPCO and DAC will continue to achieve for the benefit of all hospice and palliative care recipients.
Lauren on a video call with DAC Chair Nicole McCann-Davis

By Lauren Wallace
Lauren is NHPCO's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion intern this summer. She is a graduate of The George Washington University, where she studied communications with a minor in human services & social justice and journalism. She will begin an accelerated nursing program at Emory University this fall.

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