UPMC HealthBeat | Celebrating Pride Month

Lisa Bryan-Morris, Chief Nursing Officer at UPMC Passavant discusses Pride Month and UPMC’s commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Read The Full Podcast Transcript

– This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not medical care or advice. Clinicians should rely on their own medical judgments when advising their patients. Patients in need of medical care should consult their personal care provider. You may be aware that June is Pride Month, a time dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. But what’s its purpose, its history, and the meaning of the rainbow flag? Hi, I’m Tonia Caruso. Welcome to this UPMC HealthBeat podcast. And joining us right now is Lisa Bryan-Morris. She’s the chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at UPMC Passavant. Thank you so much for joining us.

– Of course. Of course.

– So, first, we think, “a chief nursing officer.” Why are you here talking about Pride? And what’s your connection to the LGBTQ+ community?

– So, as a chief nurse, all of the nurses at UPMC Passavant report up through me. And if you think about nurses, they are the primary caregivers at the bedside for all of our patients. We work very closely with our patients, with our families, and it is truly the nurse who is the advocate for the patient. And I think that that is why I feel so strongly about this because as a nurse, my primary goal is to advocate for our patients and to be there for them. And it’s really important to me to kind of spread that advocacy to our patients and their families.

– Right, so advocating for every patient.

– Absolutely. Yes.

– No matter what. And so that really does involve learning about all of your patients and just the different communities that are out there. And so, tell me when you first started to get involved, in particular, in LGBTQ+ initiatives at UPMC.

– So, we have always done it on some level, but I think in the last few years, the LGBTQ+ community, and that can be a mouthful sometimes, they really have needed a strong champion. And UPMC saw that. So we have had a very robust inclusion committee. And I’ve had a lot of nurses and other health care workers at Passavant really want to take part in that and really feel that this was a passion of theirs. And so when I was asked to be part of that committee, I jumped right on that. I think it was really important. We have physicians at Passavant that feel very strongly about this as well. And again, I think it was just a passion of all of ours to kind of step forward and take on that initiative.

– And really important because then, it improves the health care of patients.

– Absolutely. Yes. All patients, all patients. Yes.

– So in all of this, you’ve sort of become an historian of sorts.

– Yes, I have.

– But let’s start with sort of the basics and sort of the general purpose or goal of Pride Month.

– Yes, so Pride commemorates the LGBTQ community that has been around forever. But in 1969, there was a riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York. It was a LGBTQ bar. And at that time, the police would raid gay bars around the city. And when that happened at Stonewall, they fought back. It was a riot for about three to four days. And that is what Pride commemorates in June. That’s why we celebrate it in June. You said I’ve become a historian, and I think I told you this before we started. The first time that Passavant raised the rainbow flag was last year. And so, what I felt was important was to tell people what that rainbow flag stands for. So I did a little talk about Stonewall, why we celebrate Pride, and what that rainbow flag really stands for.

– OK, so let’s talk about the rainbow flag, and sort of the history and the meaning behind it.

– Yes. So, if anyone’s ever heard of Harvey Milk, he was an activist, a legislator in San Francisco. And he commissioned an artist, and the name is escaping me right now, to create a symbol for the LGBTQ community. And so, the rainbow flag was born. It has changed over the years. It’s had color subtracted and added. But the gist is just what it stands for. It’s the rainbow. Every color stands for something. And that’s what you see all the time. And that’s what you see a lot in June. You’ll see, you know, businesses, communities, community centers, hospitals at UPMC that fly the rainbow flag for that reason, to show support to that community.

– Right. And how important is that, that someone from the LGBTQ+ community can see a rainbow flag? What does that signify?

– So, it’s inclusivity. So, you know, the LGBTQ population sometimes has hesitancy, a lot of times, really, with health caregivers, with physicians. They don’t necessarily want to come out and talk about, you know, just general issues that other people find really easy to talk about because it’s different. So, when they see that rainbow flag, I’m hoping when they see that flying over a hospital, they know that they can talk about anything, that we’re inclusive, that they can be themselves, and that we understand what that hesitation is like, and we are those advocates for those patients.

– And talk a little bit about, you know, colors have been added in, taken out. And when something is added in, it’s another sign of inclusivity.

– Yes, absolutely.

– Talk a little bit about that.

– So, you had the general rainbow, and in the past few years, we have seen a rise in the Black Lives Matter movement. We added a black stripe to the rainbow flag. So, if you think of anything about the rainbow flag, you think of inclusivity, just like you said, Tonia. There are two other colors, a light blue and a light pink, that stand for transgender youth. We’ve added that, as well, to the rainbow flag. There are all sorts of colors and variations of the flag. You have your, you know, your basic rainbow, and then sometimes you will see other colors sprinkled in and out of it. Basic premise, though, always, always, is inclusion.

– And so, really, as Pride Month takes place, different issues become sort of a focus for advocacy. And how important, too, that allies are involved in this, as well?

– Absolutely can’t do anything without allies, right? In any community, in any minority. So, allies are super important to the LGBT community. I think about my own group at Passavant, and it’s full of allies that just know the importance of inclusivity for patients who want to have those really important conversations, who know how hard it is for some people to come forward. And they understand we are specially trained, all of us, to have those conversations as caregivers. And allies, again, just so important in this movement for the support and advocacy as we move forward.

– Right, and so, you know, you just mentioned specially trained. So, you know, UPMC takes this very seriously. Can you tell me a little bit about the training and what takes place?

– So, we are designated hospitals at UPMC with the Healthcare Equality Index. And basically, it’s just what it says. We get a score for what we do as far as our inclusivity initiatives. And what that starts with is training for all of our frontline caregivers, all of our executive management groups. We sit through hours of training, self-care modules, you know, learning modules that we do. And we do this every year, and we get a score. And we can be, you know, leader status, top performer status. We always strive to be top performer, and Passavant is top performer. I’m very proud of us. And I believe that we have almost 10 hospitals within Allegheny County and our surrounding areas that are designated. And that’s happened in the last three years. So, as this movement has grown and the importance is seen in the community, a lot of our hospitals have jumped on board.

– And so was a lot of the training sensitivity-based, focused, how to ask questions?

– Yes, exactly. A lot of awareness training. Think about this when you’re looking at a patient. What is proper to say and not? What makes your patient feel comfortable and safe in having a conversation with you as a caregiver? And we really focused on, you know, our frontline leaders, the ER nurses and physicians. When you walk into a hospital, you want to feel safe, you want to feel cared for. So, we focused on them first because they’re our frontline caregivers. And then we scattered throughout the hospital, as well.

– Right, and really, I would think beyond just being a safe space for patients, for employees who are LGBTQ+, what do these initiatives mean to them?

– Yes, absolutely. So, I told you we have inclusion councils in all of our hospitals, and we know that they are safe places for employees, as well. So, when new people come in our new-hire orientation, we talk about all of our committees. So they know that if, you know, they want to be involved in their community, we have a place for them. We have a place for their voice. And it’s really important. We have one of the biggest inclusion councils I know, we have to, in the state, at UPMC. It’s a great place to be.

– Also the parade. There’s always a big showing at at the Pride Parade.

– So, you know, UPMC usually heads off that parade. Everybody gets so excited about the parade. I think that Pittsburgh, overall, is a very inclusive city. And you see that at the time of the Pride Parade. And you see the local businesses and corporations that take part in that parade. UPMC is one of them. If you’ve ever marched in the Pride Parade like I have, it is almost an overwhelming experience to see allies and the community line the streets, and wave their flags, and just show support. It’s quite overwhelming, and it’s a really great experience.

– What do you want to say to people about becoming an ally? You know, it’s one thing to just be an ally in the background, but what’s the advantage to being an ally and showing support outwardly in the community?

– I think the most important thing is to speak up. The world we live in is very difficult, especially in the last few years. I think that you need to have compassion for everyone. If this is something that you feel strongly about, this is something that you need to use your voice, and show support, and show inclusion. It’s so important to all of us, no matter if you are gay, straight, bisexual, you know, if you’re a transgender — think about transgender youth. Youth don’t necessarily have the voice to, you know, to speak out. You have to be that ally. You have to take a stand on that. Whether it’s, you know, different initiatives, this one is important, too. And if this is a passion of yours, you must, must, must speak out.

– And why, out of all the pillars of society, all the institutions, how important do you think health care is that this is, you know, that these programs and these initiatives are underway?

– So, you’re asking a nurse. And, of course, I think it probably is one of the most, if not the most, important priority in people’s lives. You have to feel comfortable with your health care workers. Your life is honestly at stake in some situations. You have to be able to sit down and have a genuine bond and connection with your health care workers. That’s what elevates you. That’s what makes you feel safe. That’s what allows us to care for you. And I think that health care is, again, not that we are not without opportunities. We definitely are. But that one-on-one connection, that’s what leads everybody into health care. Whether you’re a nurse, a physician, whether you’re an EVS worker at the bedside. Sometimes we get the best compliments from our patients, from those people. You have to have that human connection, and I think that’s what’s so important.

– Right, and as UPMC, across the system, is working on things — ultimately, when you all sit around, and you’re in these meetings, and you’re thinking, and you’re talking about things, what’s the ultimate goal? What’s sort of the pie in the sky, “This is where we want to end up one day”?

– Yes, UPMC wants to be the health care community of choice for our community. We want to be the system that everybody comes to. We want to provide that excellent, quality, safe, one-on-one care for our patients and our family. We want the families, the patients to think, “The only place I want to go is UPMC.” We really want to be that No. 1 provider of choice. I think that we are well on our way to that. You know, I want people to think that UPMC is the place that they should go because we have everything that you would need.

– Everything that you would need. And do you hope we’ll one day get to a point where we don’t have to point out that we do these special things for the LGBTQ+ community?

– I hope so. Yes, exactly. You know, people say that, “Why do you even need the rainbow flag?” And I hope that there is one day where we don’t need the rainbow flag. Where you just walk into the hospital and know that you’re going to be cared for, and you don’t even have to think about it. We know we’re not there yet. So, I hope that when our patients see that rainbow flag, for example, flying outside of our hospital, they know it’s a safe place. Will we get to where that never has to happen? Hopefully, one day. We’re not there yet.

– As we close, talk about the commitment. You’re obviously so passionate about this. The commitment of those working on these initiatives.

– I think that you will not find a more dedicated group. I really believe that anybody who works in our inclusion council, whether it be for, you know, African-American rights, or women’s rights, or the LGBTQ community, that everybody is just so dedicated and committed to the work ahead of them. We have just recently had the Kneel Against Racism at a lot of our hospitals, and that’s kind of an offshoot of the inclusion committees, as well. There’s just so much work that I think needs to be done. And the one awesome thing about UPMC is that we’re big, and we have a lot of employees that have a cause. And they want their voices to be heard. And I think that’s the awesome thing about UPMC is you always find an advocate, you can always find a partner in something that you’re passionate about and be able to raise your voice.

– Oh, well, Lisa Bryan-Morris, we thank you so much.

– Thank you so much. It was great to be here.

– We’re so glad that you came in, and thank you for the history lesson, as well.

– Of course.

– I’m Tonia Caruso. Thank you for joining us. This is UPMC HealthBeat.

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Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.