Meet the leaders: Kayla Faezell on the importance of diversity in hospitals

Inclusion & Diversity Our people Sustainability
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As a Company, Encompass Health values the importance of creating an inclusive and diverse culture for both employees and patients. We also realize that it isn’t enough to simply say we are diverse, we must show this by incorporating this culture into the way we work and interact with others. At Encompass Health we recognize the importance of leveraging the differences of those around us in order to learn and grow. One way in which we are achieving this is through our hospital diversity committees, which were put in place in order to carry out our values around inclusion and diversity within our inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. 

One location with a strong hospital diversity committee is Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Gadsden. I had the chance to chat with chief executive officer of the hospital, Kayla Feazell to get her take on the importance of inclusion and diversity and why she made sure it was a priority within her hospital. 

Why is diversity important to you as a leader, and why did you decide to make it a priority in your hospital?

With diversity comes a greater pool of thoughts and ideas, no two people are the same and those differences allow us to approach solutions in novel ways. When we celebrate our diversity and focus on inclusion we are telling individuals that they matter. As a mother, I can see this first hand. One of our children has diabetes and cannot have gluten. As I have lived through his reactions to moments he is excluded it has made me even more aware of the impact I can have as a leader. 

What is your hospital doing to ensure you are accommodating employees’ and patients’ preferences?

It seems simple, but we try to keep up with what employees’ and patients’ preferences are by asking them. When it’s a new diet request or an accommodation we are not familiar with, we sit down and have those exploratory conversations. Our next project is to send out a questionnaire to all of our staff requesting information on their dietary preferences so that we can better serve our team and incorporate the different diets into our regular cafeteria menu. 

What purpose does the diversity committee serve within the hospital? Can you share some of goals surrounding inclusion and diversity that the committee is working towards?

When we re-launched our Diversity & Inclusion committee we tasked them with three things. First, to assist us with creating activities that serve as a way to spark conversation about diversity and inclusion. Secondly, to help us broaden how we are recruiting to reach a more diverse group of potential candidates. Lastly, to find ways we can interact with the community to lead to an increase in future diverse candidate pipeline. 

So far our committee is off to a great start. Utilizing our home office recruitment team and the newly designed hospital fact sheet we are reaching out to a larger group of colleges and universities. During National Rehabilitation Week, the committee launched two activities that really sparked some great conversations throughout the hospital. The first, was a diversity scavenger hunt—each staff member received a form that had about 20 squares with different attributes and they had to “find” someone who had that attribute. Some examples are, “find someone who attended an HBCU” and “find someone who was born outside of the US.” The second activity involved placards that said, “I am _________, but I am not__________” The responses were enlightening and eye opening. 

Is there anything else you would like to share as it pertains to inclusion and diversity and creating an inclusive environment for patients and employees?

I think one of the most important things all of us can do is focus on the little things. Just the act of acknowledging those you see with a greeting can be powerful. By being mindful of others needs or preferences we can show we care about them as a person. By not shying away from difficult moments—acknowledging when someone doesn’t seem themselves, listening to someone share a difficult story,  or asking that difficult question is an act of empathy. At heart, inclusion and diversity is embracing empathy. 

Encompass Health is currently recruiting for leadership roles within our inpatient rehabilitation hospitals just like Kayla’s. If you are interested in exploring these opportunities from CNO to CEO and everything in between, you can browse our leadership openings here

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