Congratulations to the BIPOC Perioperative Leaders to Know, Class of 2022!
Within the last few weeks, we have released our 2022 BIPOC Perioperative Leaders to Know recognition awards interviews. There were several topics up for discussion, but some highlights include discrimination in the operating room and what mentors should pass on to their mentees.
Have you experienced or witnessed discrimination in the medical profession? How was it handled? How did it impact you personally and/or professionally?
Jannette Grey, Clinical Effectiveness Consultant
When I was a new manager, I had a boss who would say inappropriate things about another staff person of color. Here is the person who has my career in their hands. What do I do? Do I stand up and say something and deal with the potential ramifications? Or do I stay quiet and be disappointed in myself for not speaking up? Especially when, as leaders, we are always telling people to speak up for safety, to say when they have a concern, and to advocate for the people who can’t advocate for themselves. So, I’ve been in some awkward positions where I had to think about that.
Kimberly Johnson, OR Nurse Resident Clinical Instructor
Once, an employee on our staff was tagged as part of a neo-Nazi group. A lot of people came into my office, even the CEO, and were like, “Do you think he’s a racist?” I said, “I know he is, but what does that have to do with his work?” It wasn’t that I was okay with this, but I deal with things in a different way. I can’t change who he is. I take people for how they come to me, and he and I actually had a great working relationship. He did what I needed him to, though we never went after work to have drinks or anything. You can’t allow negativity to drive you. You have to come from a much better and bigger place.
Prisca Duclos, Assistant Director of Surgery
I was the director of surgery at a prior place of employment and was called to administration to come meet a new surgeon. I grabbed my SPD supervisor and said, “Hey, we need to go meet this new doctor.” When I got there, the CNO introduced herself. The surgeon shook her hand. They even hugged each other. The business development recruiter introduced herself, and the surgeon shook her hand as well. I was next, so I followed suit and said, “Hi, my name is Prisca Duclos. I’m your OR director.” I went to shake her hand, and she said, “Oh no, we don’t do that.” And she fist-bumped me and tried to make it seem like it was because of COVID. But you just hugged my CNO. You just hugged the business development recruiter. They were both the same race as you, but when it got to me, you’re like, no, we don’t do that. My SPD supervisor didn’t know how to react at that moment because she didn’t want to embarrass herself by trying to extend a handshake. We returned to the OR and introduced this surgeon to my nurse manager, who was also the same race as my CNO, and she shook his hand as well. So, it was just me.
We’ve made so much progress, and then it feels like you’re going back. And I think what impacts you, even more, is when leadership doesn’t call that out. The CNO just carried on. Then afterward, she came to me and said, “Oh, you know, don’t worry about what happened.” So, she saw it too but waited until after the surgeon left and then downplayed the whole scenario.
What are some key areas a mentor should cover for their mentee?
A mentor should help you understand your role as a leader. It’s so much easier when you’re not teaching everything to yourself. To learn from somebody who has been there, done that, made the mistakes, and can tell you how to avoid them. Now, you will make mistakes. But there are mistakes you can bounce back from, and then there are mistakes that, once they happen, are career-altering. It’s very important to have a mentor who can help guide you, especially when you have a new role.
Kendall Carter, Director of Nursing and Surgical Services
One is to help them build confidence. Particularly people who are new to leadership because it’s a tough transition from “buddy to boss.” The second big thing is helping them understand the picture that they need to take in now. There are levels of leadership. I’ll use an example of what I mean: I’ll liken our frontline staff to people on the street who just witnessed an accident. Our service line leads are the window washers; they can see the accident and a little more around it. As you keep going up to the CEO, it’s like a satellite with all the different views, which are important. So, when you move into leadership, you must understand how your perspective has changed. There is a lot that you have to take into account now. In perioperative, that’s a difficult transition for people because they’re used to being the frontline person, and now they’re a leader with a more encompassing role. They need help seeing that perspective.
Another thing is providing a safe and open line of communication. I need my team to feel like we can have a safe discussion. That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree. That doesn’t mean there won’t be times when I, as a leader, will say, “I hear everything you’re saying, but we’re going with this plan.” Some things are executive decisions, but I never want my team to be afraid to ask me a question.
I don’t think the financial aspects of the OR are focused on as much as they should be. As you grow in the OR, you learn supplies and make sure preference cards are okay. But as you get into the leadership role, you need to analyze your FTE vs. productivity, and it could be a struggle, or you have to tap into your finance department.
Then there is balance. Teach your mentee that it’s okay to say no, to take a look at something tomorrow, or take an hour to decompress. This is very important for women of color because we push ourselves to show them that we belong here and want to prove ourselves, and we end up burning ourselves out.