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Welland Emergency Department proud to show Pride

Posted Jun 25th, 2024

We are Niagara Health is a series of stories that celebrates the incredible people working and volunteering in our organization and how they make a difference in the lives of patients and coworkers every day.

Shauna Speck stands in the Welland Hospital

Shauna Speck is the clinical manager of the Welland Hospital Emergency Department where she and her team strive to create a safe space for 2sLGBTQIA+ patients seeking healthcare. 

Shauna Speck loves this time of year.

Symbols of love abound in June. They’re “colourful reminders of people in our lives who deserve to exist without barriers or hate.”

For all the joy these signals of Pride Month bring the Clinical Manager at the Welland Hospital Emergency Department (ED), Speck knows they’re critical indicators to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community that they are in a safe space for accessing healthcare.

That’s why she and her team make sure their pronoun and rainbow pins displayed on their lanyards, and posters with visible cues of allyship remain prominent in the ED all year and not only during June’s celebration and commemoration of those who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+.

It’s a gesture that extends beyond patients to others so they also know they are among friends.

“Allyship with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is a priority because fundamentally we are talking about human rights, human caring, human safety, and we are all human,” Speck says. “Knowing that we have members of our team and people in our community who can walk in our doors and seek employment and/or care without judgment, bias or stigma is critical for our community. It’s just not optional.”

That stance isn’t new. Although pronoun pins weren’t prevalent when Speck started at the Welland ED in 2016, she initiated conversations about such important topics with her team in hopes of establishing a deeply rooted culture of allyship in the ED.

It worked and didn’t go unnoticed. Those efforts have led to the smallest of Niagara Health’s EDs being a model for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout the organization.

"Talking about DEI, about Pride, about person-centred care and holistic care of all people, is paramount to embedding these concepts into the culture of a team."

“As a leader I often get asked ‘What are you doing in the Welland ED that you have such a great uptake with DEI practice changes?’” Speck says. “The first time I was asked that I was taken aback because the truth is the whole team was relieved when the practice changes caught up with what they needed and wanted for our community for so long. When I reflected on this, I realized that it came back to the culture and dialogue I’ve been having with the team since 2016. Talking about DEI, about Pride, about person-centred care and holistic care of all people, is paramount to embedding these concepts into the culture of a team.”

Those are conversations anybody can have to create safe spaces elsewhere in the organization, she adds. And they’re conversations that need to be more than a one-off or saved for when the calendar changes to June.

“We need to talk about DEI, equity-deserving people, and about 2SLGBTQIA+ people every day,” Speck says. “We need to embed this in the culture of the organization by having high expectations of our Niagara Health community and colleagues. We need to be comfortable standing up for equity-deserving people and groups.” 

Like every day, Speck is celebrating Pride by continuing to engage with others in meaningful conversation while challenging ideas that cause harm to others. She and her team arealsoproudly wearing all their Pride accessories as beacons of inclusion and safety.

“Pride to me and my team is truly an active commitment to allyship,” Speck says. “Its about learning about people, about experiences, about love, about having the confidence to stand up and speak up when you encounter situations that make people living in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community unsafe or minimized in any way. It’s about ensuring that as an emergency department we are able to treat all patients with dignity and respect.”

Niagara Health System