Diversity In A Hospital

Fairfax Metropolitan Hospital is a moderately sized teaching hospital committed to quality care from a qualified staff. The hospital currently suffers from a lack of diversity among its staff however,—a glaring fault in nearly every unit at the hospital and one pointed out by several accrediting agencies. The hospital now seeks to develop a more diversified staff which they define as one representing the diversity of their community. There is also an urgent need to modernize the nursing department as its outdated procedures and inefficient practices also concern accreditors. Compounding the hospital’s concerns is the recent retirement of the Director of Nursing—just as another nursing accreditation visit looms on the horizon. The intervieW HR Director Jorge Hansen listens as the Search Committee discusses a candidate, Dr. Saryn Soysa, who they have just interviewed for the Director of Nursing position. She is a heavyset, pleasant young woman who looks even younger than her 32 years. Originally from Sri Lanka, she has been educated in U.S. universities and is now a U.S. citizen. Dr. Soysa’s credentials are truly outstanding. She took advanced exams, graduated early from college summa cum laude and completed advanced graduate work by studying full time on national and international fellowships. With a doctorate from a prestigious U.S. university, this articulate young woman has already won several research grants as well as a number of awards and honors. Her work experience is appropriate for this position and her references laud not only her skills, but also her personality and sense of responsibility. Her credentials are superb and by far the best of all the candidates under consideration. As the HR Manager listens, themes emerge from the Committee’s discussion of Dr. Soysa. Typical of the comments he hears are: “I am concerned about her health, given that she is so overweight.” “Did you notice how much she ate at lunch!!” “It’s important that we present a good public appearance…” “This job involves a lot of public relations; the director has a lot of public exposure.” “Too bad our benefits don’t include fitness clubs or Weight Watchers!” “I just don’t know about her…” “She is qualified, but…” “And she is so much younger than the other directors! Do you think she is too young to fit with them? “Experienced nurses might not accept her…” “I just don’t know if she would fit well with our organization.” Someone suggests that maybe they should select one of the male candidates since there are few male nurses in the unit and the hospital has never had a male in the Nursing Director’s position. Someone else tentatively suggests that maybe the search should be reopened. As the committee continues its discussion, the HR Director is aware that no one is arguing for any other candidate in particular. There seems to be implicit acceptance that Saryn Soysa is by far the best qualified; easily head and shoulders above all the other candidates. Their conversation, however, reflects reservations tinged with some prejudices. Jorge knows that the search team is conscious of its charge to diversify the nursing unit and he thinks that their comments reflect underlying disapproval of Saryn’s weight and youth. He is aware that his supervisor, the hospital CEO, is on shaky ground with the Board of Directors and he suspects that she may think it is too risky to hire someone so young for such an important post. The Board might well question her judgment in approving such a hire. In summary, while there is universal agreement that Dr. Soysa is exceptionally qualified and the hospital really needs her expertise to modernize the Nursing Department, the Search Committee is clearly uncomfortable with her weight and youth although they avoid making many direct references to either. The CEO could likely be leery of her weight as well as her youth. the hr Manager’s ethical DileMMa Jorge ponders the situation; the final decision is his. Should he yield to the committee’s reservations by hiring a less qualified candidate? Would the CEO be happy with this decision? Should he consider reopening the search even though it is extremely unlikely to yield someone so well qualified? Would either of these alternatives be the best ethical and/or the best business decision for the hospital? Or, should Jorge ignore committee reservations and hire Saryn Soysa? If he does, how should he explain his decision to the committee and to his boss, the CEO?

Discussion Questions

  1. Generate a list of possible actions the HR manager might take.
  2. Which action(s) would you suggest as the most appropriate for the HR manager? Why?
  3. Are there legal issues here? Explain. (See Appearance and Weight Inclusion Issues in the Workforce in this text).
  4. If Jorge hires Saryn, what message is he sending to the hospital staff? If he doesn’t hire her, what message is he sending?
  5. If Jorg hires Saryn, what problems is she likely to face? What problems will Jorge likely face?
  6. What resources does Saryn have for dealing with the problems? What resources does Jorge have for dealing with the problems?
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