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Advocating for Vulnerable Communities Through Nursing

Advancing Culturally Competent Care
March 26, 2018
Advocating for Vulnerable Communities Through Nursing

Throughout his 30-year career in healthcare, Paul S. Hayes, MSN, RN, executive director of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., has provided the nursing community with leadership through a variety of projects focused on inclusion and community engagement. Recently named one of the Puget Sound Business Journal “Outstanding Voices” for his work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) communities, Paul has played an influential role in the enhancement of healthcare policies and programs for some of the most vulnerable communities, while focusing on providing care for all in an environment that fosters innovation and compassion. We recently spoke to Paul about his accomplished career, the importance of cultural competency, and his commitment to the LGBTQ community.

Nursing Notes (NN): Can you share a little bit about your nursing career journey or path?

Paul Hayes: My journey to becoming a nurse began when I was in high school. I volunteered at a county hospital, where I observed the importance of providing quality care to vulnerable populations, the operational needs of a hospital, and the interdependency of the different services and departments required for organizational success. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, I entered Creighton University’s Nursing Accelerated program.

Over time, I learned that creating an optimal environment for patients and those who provide the care was personally and professionally rewarding for me. Through the years, I have served in many leadership positions, including chief operating officer, executive vice president, and interim chief health system officer. All of these positions have allowed me to influence, shape, and create a culture focused on patient safety and care through enhanced employee engagement.

NN: What are the greatest benefits stemming from a nursing workforce as diverse as our country’s population?

Paul: As a result of focused recruitment and enhanced educational opportunities, the nursing workforce has become ethnically and culturally diversified, better reflecting the patients and communities that nurses serve. While tremendous progress has been made, continued effort and focus must continue.

NN: Can you share more about your work with the LGBTQ community and what inspired it?

Paul: My work with the LGBTQ community began in the early 1980s as a registered nurse working in San Francisco. I saw first-hand the effect of ignorance, fear, and bias for those with HIV and AIDS. This was tremendously impactful to me. I have since spent the majority of my professional career focused on enhancing the health of vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ individuals, when it comes to the healthcare delivery system.

NN: Why is it important to implement cultural competency training when working with the LGBTQ community?

Paul: The cornerstone of cultural competency is built from education and conversation. There are tremendous misperceptions regarding nuances of medical and nursing care, as well as the potential social disparities that may be present for members of the LGBTQ community.

NN: What has guided your approach as executive director at Harborview Medical Center?

Paul: At Harborview Medical Center, I am inspired, impacted, and motivated by the issues of equity and inclusion by our patients and staff each and every day. The mission of Harborview clearly mandates care and service to vulnerable individuals, which our expert teams are unwavering in meeting each day through a broad array of programs, services, and support. 

NN: What programs have you helped establish? How have these impacted patient outcomes?

Paul: As a member entity of the University of Washington School of Medicine, I have co-led the system’s care and community awareness of LGBTQ individuals. Our efforts have involved staff competency, presence at the Seattle Pride Parade, membership in the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), and most proudly, continuing certification by the Human Rights Campaign as a leader in the provision of LGBTQ healthcare. These efforts continue year over year in advancing our goals of equity and inclusion for all.

NN: What advice do you have for other nurses/hospitals who are interested in providing more comprehensive cultural competency training and policies?

Paul: I believe that in today’s society, we must continue to advocate for all vulnerable populations. I also believe leading organizations and employers of choice truly understand the value and impact this contributes to care outcomes and staff engagements. This work and conversation is critical as our nation continues to struggle with potential regression of equity and justice.

NN: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Paul: Look for or accept opportunities that further the organization’s efforts, even if they may take you outside your comfort zone. You may not know it at the time, but they will serve you well in the future. Be authentic, work hard, remember balance is important, and be kind.

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