A racism recovery healing program implemented in a health care system may enhance any workplace with Black employees, according to findings presented at the DNPs of Color 2022 Annual Conference held October 21 to 23, 2022, in Baltimore, MD.
“The study’s findings showed positive responses for safe spaces within the health care organization,” said study author Deanna Stewart, DNP, RN, of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The participants were elated that they finally had a setting within their workplace where they could meet, vent, and learn coping strategies with other Black employees.”
“Racism, in various aspects of life, occurs daily. Black people are exhausted from it but have nowhere to express their feelings passionately in a group without the presence of other races,” Dr Stewart said.
“Black people living in the United States often face race-related stressors, such as unfair treatment by law enforcement, workplace discrimination, and health care disparities,” Dr Stewart explained. “These ongoing racism-related traumas can lead to psychological and physical distress and may be a predictor for psychologic dysregulation.”
Dr Stewart recruited Black employees from the Black and African American Health Networking Group at Cone Health in Greensboro, NC, for this study. The participants completed a 17-question pre-survey (Brief PEDQ-CV) to assess their exposure to racism.
The program content was strategically designed to heighten emotions and increase engagement among the group, Dr Stewart explained. Participants shared their lived experiences, discussed ways to cope with racial stressors (eg, achieving calmness and focusing on self-control) using the Boston College racial trauma toolkit, and developed individual racism recovery plans in groups of 4 to 7 participants with a facilitator.
A total of 4 groups met in 1-hour virtual sessions over 2 weeks with the goal of creating personalized racism recovery plans. Participation increased during the program with 4 participants attending session 1, 5 attending sessions 2 and 3, and 7 attending session 4.
Dr Stewart educated the group on warning signs of acute racial trauma such as withdrawal from others, headaches, using profane language, feeling defensive, and feeling tearful. Tips for managing this stress included calling a therapist, talking to a close friend, focusing on exercise, and allowing quiet, personal time to reflect. Dr Stewart also discussed how to recognize and be prepared for a crisis and asked participants to identify 3 people participants could call for help and memorize the contacts’ phone numbers. The following resources were also provided:
- MentalHealth.gov: call or text 988; 1-800-273-8255
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264; text: 62640
- Crisistextline.org: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
Employees Felt Safe Discussing Racism-Related Experiences
During the sessions, between 86% and 100% of the participants said they felt safe to discuss their lived experience, between 80% and 86% thought the session helped them discuss race-related experiences, 50% to 80% thought the racial trauma toolkit was useful in creating their recovery plans, and 71% in session 4 said they would use their race recovery plan in the future.
When small groups of Black employees gathered in a virtual safe space, they engaged in critical conversations, learned tips for coping with racially-induced stressors, and understood the importance of seeking help with coping with racially-induced mental health stressors, Dr Stewart explained. Most of the participants thought the racial trauma toolkit was useful in formulating a race recovery plan for future use.
The findings are limited by the small sample size and restricted timing of sessions, Dr Stewart noted. Establishing trust from participants takes time, she added.
Creating a Safe Space in the Workplace
“Health care organizations, corporate offices, and community churches should provide spaces for Black people to decrease unaddressed racial tension and promote positive mindsets that will lead to improved work environments,” Dr Stewart concluded. “My goal is to deploy MyALLy Stewart Diversity Consulting, a nonprofit sector, to implement spaces in one organization at a time to help decrease the mental and emotional strain of racism.”
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Stewart D. Implementing a safe space for African American employees to develop individualized racism recovery plans. Poster presented at: DNPs of Color 2022 Annual Conference; October 21-23, 2022; Baltimore, MD.