At St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, we’re committed to supporting everyone to face death informed, supported and pain free so we’ve been focusing on inclusion, equity and diversity at the hospice.
St Catherine’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group (EDI) member Francis Miles shares his experience volunteering at St Catherine’s first Crawley Pride event and the importance of diversity and inclusion for hospices.
“As someone who ticks a fair few boxes on diversity forms, I was keen to be part of St Catherine’s EDI group. It’s an exciting time at St Catherine’s as our EDI group builds momentum.
Already we’ve been developing our recruitment processes by making them more inclusive. We’ve also discussed ways to make our website, patient information and communications more accessible.
I recently volunteered at Crawley Pride – people were overjoyed to see us there
I was proud to be there as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and proud to represent St Catherine’s. People were overjoyed to see our hospice there, and keen to share their thanks for the support our hospice provides.
Having a stand at Pride was a small step towards growing awareness around St Catherine’s wish to stand alongside everyone in our community. Visibility and active engagement with Crawley’s various diverse communities should be a positive signal to staff, potential future job candidates, volunteers, families and fundraisers. A signal that our hospice is aiming to be more inclusive, and that we’d like to make people feel welcome, represented, comfortable and supported across the board.
Not only were we able to share job, volunteering and fundraising opportunities with people, but people shared memories of their loved ones with us. Most people I spoke to had personal connections to St Catherine’s, with incredible stories and gratitude about the level of care their friends and families had experienced with us.
As we were aiming to signal inclusivity, I took my own “Progress Pride” along to fly on the stall
This redesigned version of the rainbow flag (with extra colours) further represents marginalised LGBTQ+ communities. Black, brown, blue, pink and white stripes represent people of colour, the trans community and people living with HIV/AIDS. The Yellow triangle with a purple circle represents the intersex community.
It seemed to be an immediate draw to several young people who came over to the stall. One 10-year-old girl excitedly skipped over with her mother and exclaimed proudly, “I’m trans!” which was very inspiring. I wish I had that level of confidence now, let alone at 10!
People sang the praises of our hospice teams, from our clinical staff to our volunteers, cleaners, maintenance, wellbeing and catering teams. Our popular “jolly drinks trolley” got a few mentions too!
Some people told us they’d loved spending time in our hospice gardens and how relieved they’d been to be under our hospice’s care. They relayed that this wasn’t just for the care received by their loved ones, but for the wider care, support and bereavement counselling they’d received themselves. Several had taken part in our fundraising events and continue to raise money for us.
Despite experiencing the pain of losing someone close, who had either died at the hospice or been supported by our teams at home, it was clear that St Catherine’s held a special place in many people’s hearts. It made me feel proud to be a small part of the work that St Catherine’s delivers to the community.
There is still much work to do
Marie Curie’s 2017 report “Hiding who I am” – The reality of end of life care for LGBT people notes that:
“Many older LGBT people have significant fears about palliative and end of life care services.
They are concerned that service providers and health and social care professionals will be indifferent to their sexuality and gender identity, or, at worst, actively hostile.
They worry that palliative and end of life care services are simply ‘not for them’, or that they will receive worse treatment than their straight peers.
These fears are not unwarranted.”
Unfortunately, I very much relate to this fear.
As someone who has felt “Othered” and worse for being my authentic self, I know personally how this can lead to a feeling of marginalisation or feeling vulnerable, especially in healthcare settings.
‘Coming out’ even to health and social care professionals can feel daunting at the best of times and accessing supportive end of life care without fear of indifference, insensitivity or discrimination is something I’m sure we’d all like for everyone under hospice care.
But treating “everyone the same” is not the answer
Embracing people’s differences – ethnicity, gender identity, neuro-divergence/impairment or disability, sexual orientation, religion, age and so on, can be a strength and a real advantage to organisations.
Saying things like you don’t see colour, don’t care who someone sleeps with or what religion they are may feel open-minded and supportive, but this can often negate people’s lived-experiences of being othered.
Everyone is not the same and will have a unique experience of sometimes intersecting and overlapping identities that could marginalise them.
Some may have invisible differences, disabilities, neurodivergences.
Building inclusive practices, learning about and valuing difference, and having an awareness and sensitivity around the assumptions we might make will help us all professionally and personally.
It is sometimes scary, and sometimes we might get it wrong, but we can all continue to learn. With all our different experiences at St Catherine’s and within the wider hospice sector, it’s exciting to think we can work together to make sure that the diversity of people we care for is better reflected across our workforces and on our wards.”
To find out more about the work of St Catherine’s please visit: www.stch.org.uk
Images show: Francis at Crawley Pride
St Catherine’s Hospice provides end-of-life care and support to terminally ill people and their families across Crawley, Horsham, East Surrey and Mid Sussex.