Marlene Varga, a clinical nurse at Covenant Health, believes visibility and representation as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community within Covenant are important.
“I identify as gay, and I feel valued for my uniqueness. I feel like I can be myself at work. Letting people know more about me can set the tone for genuine caring and respect for others as unique individuals.”
Several months ago, Marlene joined Covenant’s Diversity and Inclusion Council to help create a more open and inclusive environment for patients, residents, families, staff, physicians and volunteers. Covenant Health established the council in 2020 as part of its commitment to honouring the diverse identities, perspectives and experiences that all of its patients, residents, staff, physicians and volunteers bring to its facilities.
Meaghan Ellis, corporate director, diversity, inclusion and volunteerism, continues to work to create an environment within Covenant where all people feel included and valued. One important activity is observing Pride Month.
“Pride Month is important because we want to ensure we are always focusing on inclusion and creating an environment where patients, residents, families, staff, physicians and volunteers feel that they can celebrate their authentic selves,” says Meaghan.
Creating a safe place for staff, physicians and volunteers is important; however, patients, clients, residents and families also need to feel safe and that they are treated with dignity and respect.
Covenant is doing a number of things to celebrate Pride Month, including having guest speakers with expertise in how to create caring clinical environments.
“We’ve heard from some staff and physicians that they are unsure about how to ask certain questions and want to ensure they are providing respectful, inclusive care with members of the LGBTQ2S+ community,” says Meaghan. “These sessions will offer some strategies and tips to help people feel more comfortable and confident in promoting inclusive and safe environments for all clients. It can be as simple as asking a patient how they would like to be addressed, rather than making any assumptions.”
Marlene says Pride Month is a great opportunity to challenge our teams to have conversations about the LGBTQ2S+ community. Personal connection, stories and conversations build awareness and understanding.
Some staff are choosing to add pronoun stickers to their name badges or use them as backgrounds on virtual meetings. Others are choosing to wear Pride pins to show their support for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
“Some people do not understand why pronouns are important,” says Marlene. “Using correct pronouns shows our intention to live our values and shows respect for people as unique individuals.”
Covenant is starting an advisory body for the LGBTQ2S+ community. This body will help inform the organization, develop educational modules and build a culture where staff and clinicians can ask questions that they may have been reluctant to ask before.
“I want people to know that this is a safe environment where we don’t tolerate any kind of bigotry or hatred,” says Marlene. “Everyone is welcome to work in our organization and be who they are.”
Marlene says that in recognition of Pride Month she wants to send love to those who are not comfortable coming out, have lost people close to them by coming out, can’t come out due to safety concerns, are unsure of their sexuality or gender, don’t have a support system or are out in our community.