To kick start NP Week, we celebrate Deanna Stewart, DNP, RN, who is the founder of MyALLy Stewart Diversity Consulting, a nonprofit program designed to implement safe spaces in organizations to help decrease the mental and emotional strain of racism. Dr Stewart has been a registered nurse for the past 16 years and her clinical expertise is in case management. She graduated from Winston-Salem State University with her BSN, earned her MSN from Chamberlain University, and received her Doctor of Nurse Practice degree from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Q: What is your safe space program about?

Dr Stewart: The safe space program is designed for Black people who have experienced racism in hospitals, workplaces, schools, shopping malls, or anywhere. As racism continues throughout life, there are no spaces in organizations for Black people to heal together without the presence of other races. Therefore, Black people must continue as if racism does not affect them.

The safe space allows Black people to vent, share experiences, learn coping strategies, enhance emotional intelligence, and develop racism recovery plans. The program also educates participants on how to create an individualized racism recovery plan that includes strategies for navigating stressful situations and crisis planning.


Continue Reading

Q: What experiences led you to start this program?

Dr Stewart: I was working remotely when I looked at the TV and saw 4 police officers on George Floyd’s back as he was lifeless on the pavement. Immediately, I was overcome with various emotions. I felt nauseous, afraid, sad, and angry. I could not focus on work, so I told my supervisor I needed to take off the rest of the day. I sat in silence and cried for the remainder of the evening. I hugged my husband and kids and prayed that this would never happen to them.

The next day, I contacted the employee assistance program (EAP) and informed them that I was experiencing emotional hardship and needed to speak with a group of people like myself. I asked the EAP representative for a space designed for people with the same racial life stressors. A space where we can meet, talk, cry, and provide encouragement. Unfortunately, those spaces did not exist. I contacted the organization’s vice president and informed them of my request for a space for Black employees to talk about our feelings. The vice president arranged for everyone in the department to meet in a virtual setting and asked us to share our feelings and thoughts regarding racial tension. A White lady volunteered and stated that she had no idea what it felt like to be afraid of the cops. She said she did not fear for her children’s safety because she knew the police would always protect them.

I was in shock after hearing her statement. I felt angry and confused. I wondered how we could live in the same country and experience completely different life forms. A little later, a White male employee also volunteered and stated that he did not think racism existed in his town. He noted that everyone got along and racism only existed on TV. I was so upset that I left the meeting abruptly. That was not the space I needed. A few weeks later, I met with my professors in my doctoral program to discuss an idea for process improvement for my DNP project. I told them organizations should create spaces for Black employees experiencing racism but not allow other races to attend. They thought the idea was necessary and groundbreaking. I contacted Cone Health, gathered participants, conducted research, and implemented the study. It was successful with favorable results. The positive outcome prompted me to create MyALLy Stewart Diversity Consulting to reach more organizations to implement spaces for Black employees.

Q: How can this program help Black clinicians in their work environment?

Dr Stewart: Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for Black clinicians to encounter racism in their work environments. As a result, they cannot express their emotions in the hallways, in front of patients, or in the presence of other staff members. Instead, they have to function as if everything is okay while silently dealing with frustrations on the inside. Thus, the program can help Black clinicians relieve stress in an exclusive space without judgment, repercussions, or trepidation, allowing them to focus on patient care without suffering from psychological pain.

Q: How can hospitals and medical institutions implement this program?

Dr Stewart: Hospitals and medical institutions can implement the safe space program by going to www.myallysdc.com and clicking on the live chat option or filling out the contact form stating their interest in implementing the program. After discussing their needs and agreeing to services, hospitals and medical institutions can encourage their employees to sign up for virtual sessions under the services tab on the site. The sessions are offered on various days during each week. The maximum number of participants allowed in each session is 150.

In addition to the safe space, aka Racial Trauma Recovery program, MyALLy Stewart Diversity Consulting offers Microaggressions & Implicit Bias and Allyship & Anti-racism education programs, which will be available in virtual sessions as well. All sessions begin the week of January 2, 2023.

Q: How much would it cost medical institutions?

Dr Stewart: MyALLy Stewart Diversity Consulting offers free training and sessions and is funded via generous tax-deductible donations. It is a nonprofit organization with a pending 501(c)(3) tax exemption status that will be effective by mid-December.

Q: What do you aim to accomplish by starting this program?

Dr Stewart: I aim to provide safe spaces for Black employees in health care organizations, schools, corporations, and the community. I need people to understand the importance of implementing spaces and the benefits involved. I am hopeful the program will allow Black employees to manage racial stressors and thrive in their work environment.

Q: Do you intend to keep your clinical practice?

Dr Stewart: Yes. I plan to continue working as a nurse leader in my current practice. In addition, I will conduct weekly diversity sessions and add more facilitators in the upcoming months. The goal is to reach as many health care organizations as possible while providing spaces for as many Black employees as possible.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Dr Stewart: It takes enormous courage to step away from familiar ground and dive into troubled water to chase your passion. So when you’re unsure, weigh it all out. Then, ask yourself if you’re being the change that you want to see. If you answer no, put on your scuba gear and dive in wholeheartedly. Opportunities are blessings. It’s a privilege when you get one.