In the past year, our country has seen a number of earth-shattering civil rights events. When faced with those types of events, it’s imperative that people and organizations take a stand. The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) has a long-standing commitment to promote equity through its work in the community, however, the organization’s leaders felt it was time to cement their commitment to racial equality by acknowledging it in VNA’s mission statement.
“It’s important that the community knows that we want to be very clear about our commitment to equality and inclusion in both our hiring practices and who we serve,” says Deb Schuster, VNA Board Chair. “We decided a good place to start was by addressing our mission statement.”
VNA’s mission now reads: “Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis provides a coordinated continuum of care, throughout one’s life span, that promotes health, independence and dignity in the home and community without regard to race, color, age, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, national origin, socioeconomic status, political beliefs or disability.”
Nesa Joseph, President and CEO, Deb and the committee of the Board worked on the change, and they included their developments as part of a three-year strategic goal to put equity at the forefront of VNA’s culture.
“It’s something that was long overdue, even before the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Though we all believed it and acted this way, we wanted to really incorporate it and make it a part of our organizational DNA and culture,” explains Deb.
VNA’s commitment goes beyond adding language to a mission statement. Over the next three years, learning initiatives for the board, management team and staff on diversity and inclusion will be organized. Initiatives will include presentations from social justice organizations, board members and staff accompanying doctors and nurses on home visits in minority communities and ongoing conversations on improvements the organization can make.
“The most important thing the community needs to know is that we’re making a serious in-depth commitment to not only our community, but our patients, our staff, people seeking employment at VNA and referral partners,” says Deb. “We want to be as diverse and inclusive as possible and be an empathetic partner in changing ourselves and responding to what minority communities want and need since they’ve been ignored, disenfranchised and marginalized for so long.”
Work to advance civil and racial equality is an ongoing process, but one that VNA is driven to undertake.
“My attitude is that you get one chance at life,” says Deb. “And when you have an opportunity to open your eyes and change how you perceive things and treat people, you can make a meaningful change, and that’s what life is all about.”
To learn more about VNA’s mission, vision and values, click here.