Advocating for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Practice

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Respect for diversity is central to the quality of interprofessional collaboration. I work at an educational institution where I am completing my interprofessional practicum. We do an excellent job in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Even with our yearly performance evaluations, we are required to have one of our performance goals be in relation to DEI. I work closely with other educators, as well as other social workers and case managers, both at the college and in the community levels to promote our value of DEI.

Student Group Provides Opportunity for DEI

We encourage diversity through a student support group I am facilitating with two faculty advisors called Addicts and Allies. The group could be more diverse because it consists of all Caucasian females, excluding two of the advisors, myself included. We also have one advisor who is a male. I suggested to members of the Addicts and Allies group that we find another way to market the group, especially if we plan to do more throughout the community. There was general agreement that marketing more broadly could potentially help us with finding more members from diverse populations.

Initiatives Identified to Increase DEI

The group advisors also agreed to encourage their students to join Addicts and Allies and/or ask them to mention it to their friends who could potentially benefit from the group. Some of the other case workers at the college, and case workers who are employed with our community partners also offered to make referrals to students at our college who utilize their services. I volunteered to reach out to our director of African American initiatives, our Latinx coordinator, and the director of our Global Learning Center as a way to increase diversity in the group.

I spoke with my practicum supervisor, Dr. Ann Callahan, about the lack of diversity in the Addicts and Allies group and shared  some of the steps we were taking as an interprofessional team to enhance diversity with our group. And I also mentioned to her that the students were very eager to be a part of a more diverse group, because they each expressed their desire to interact with and learn about other cultures.

Dr. Callahan shared this desire to be more inclusive of diversity and suggested more ways students from diverse cultures could attend the Addicts and Allies group. We determined that it would be good to solicit direct feedback from diverse students on how to better support our goal and ask if they would help us recruit new members.

My supervisor described how she worked with a number of students, both past and current, who have misused substances and could benefit from this group. I was pleased to let her know that virtual meeting options were available to ensure distance would not be a barrier. She agreed to give me the contact information for students who expressed an interest in our group so they could attend meetings.

Representation Matters in Social Work

My supervisor ended our communication by saying “I, myself am still learning a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am a firm believer that representation matters” (P. Lewis, personal communication, September 14, 2022).

I took this statement very seriously as I began to reflect on my own time with the group. I agree, representation matters for so many reasons. Including but not limited to, allowing those who are coming up after you, to see someone who looks like them in a position to be an agent of change. “College students begin the process of building a peer relationship support system consistent with their expectations and goals for college” (Doweiko & Evans, 2019, p. 289). We can interpret this statement to support representation matters because students will associate themselves with likeminded people, or people who have the same mind frame as they do.

I began to reflect as well on ways I can reach students of color to be interested in the group, even if they do not/have not had any issues with substance misuse. It would be great to key in on students who have loved ones who have misused substances or have been affected by someone who has had substance use disorder.

The Addicts and Allies group is more likely to be successful if we can build a collaborative effort to ensure our group is more inclusive. Interdependence refers to interactions between professionals where they become dependent on one another to achieve goals favorable to the clients (Bronstein, 2003).

Here our student members and potential members are professionals in their own right as they are experts in a worldview that can uniquely inform how to they can be an addict or an ally. We need their participation to strengthen our group. It is the strength of our interprofessional team that will enable us to reach more students and members of the community. Together we have the capacity and potential to be successful in expanding our Addicts and Allies group to be more inclusive, and I believe this will increase the integrity and morale of the group. In being responsive to diversity, we can all be allies. –

Cathi Smith, MSW is a recent graduate of the EKU MSW program. This post is about her experience in completing her interprofessional practicum placement. – Ann Callahan, PhD, LCSW provided consultation in teaching the interprofessional practicum course and in the writing of this publication.

By: Cathi Smith, MSW and Ann Callahan, PhD, LCSW Eastern Kentucky University

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Bronstein, L. R. (2003). A model for interdisciplinary collaboration. Social Work, 48(3), 297–306. Doweiko, H. E., & Evans, A. L. (2019). Concepts of Chemical Dependency. Cengage.

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