Dr. Robinson-Lane Will Speak to Community Building

As America’s health care system confronts its history of inequity and bias at all levels, the Shiley Haynes Institute’s upcoming Annual Symposium will offer attendees an opportunity to explore these issues for hospice and palliative care professionals in the context of community and community building.

“We’ll be talking about culturally responsive care, community-engaged work and how to be more thoughtful about what it means to be part of a community,” says Sheria G. Robinson-Lane, PhD, RN, MHA, a gerontologist and assistant professor of nursing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She leads a pre-seminar workshop, “Positive Partnerships through Community-Engaged Approaches,” on March 1 at the Shiley Haynes Institute’s March 2023 National Symposium for Academic Palliative Care Education and Research, at the Long Beach, Calif., Hilton Hotel.

“What’s exciting about this work is the opportunity for clinicians and others who serve in various roles in hospice and palliative care for persons with chronic diseases and their families to reimagine what community engagement might look like, and how to create more inclusive spaces that center belonging and leverage the power of community and relationship-building, using evidence-based approaches to accomplish that,” she explains.

Dr. Robinson-Lane’s workshop at the symposium will offer interactive, small group explorations as well as didactics. It will draw on tools such as the techniques of Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS), with its 15 standards for organizations to evaluate how they are doing to incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging into their community interactions and into how they deliver care.

“We will explore our current ways of engaging with our stakeholders and community partners—as well as other, different ways to approach this.” Bias can be considered more broadly than race and ethnicity and includes a lot of other factors, she said. “We can learn to have a better sense of how bias can influence our decision making. Can we understand why we do what we do and how culture influences all of us?”

Culture and the End of Life 

“Responses to serious, life-threatening or terminal illness happen in a cultural context,” Dr. Robinson-Lane says. Culture is something that’s learned, and it’s central to the end-of-life experience. “Culture is how we’ve been taught to survive in the world, and when you get to the end of life, culture is what comes through,” she says. “What does culture mean to us? How does that affect our perspectives as an organization? And how do we make sure our mission and vision are moving forward in ways that are truly inclusive?” she posed.

“What I’m suggesting, and what culturally responsive approaches to care suggest, is that there is a different way of thinking about the ability of families and communities to provide self-care that is powerful and valuable. We need to be more thoughtful about engaging the things that they are already doing and already know work, their existing coping strategies, and how we can support what may already be in place in their lives and communities. That will help us to build stronger relationships with organizations in the community,” she said.

“Do you know who are the folks in the communities you want to serve who are already providing various services?” she says. “Do you know which churches are providing different services focused on the sick and shut-in? Can your organization support those organizations by providing content, information and resources to build mutually beneficial relationships? Are the organizations that are already doing this work getting the information they need from you? Are they aware of the services that hospice or palliative care organizations are offering in ways that don’t feel like recruitment?”

Dr. Robinson Lane’s deep interest in gerontology, palliative care and hospice date back to the start of her career as a nursing assistant in long-term care while working her way through nursing school. “I love older adults,” she explains. Along the way she was a director of nursing with a focus on working on quality issues with nursing homes, then for 10 years an educator with Hospice of Michigan. “When I moved into a faculty position, my love of end-of-life care continued.”

The population is getting more diverse all the time, in lots of different ways, she said. Meanwhile, diversity has become a kind of buzzword for thinking about people who are different than us. “Being able to provide excellent palliative care means being more thoughtful about how we can create environments that offer a sense of belonging.” For more information on the Institute’s 2023 Symposium, view the Symposium homepage.