At connectRN, Authenticity Is Key to Empowering the Heart of Healthcare
Showing up to work as one’s true self looks different for everyone. For connectRN Clinician Training Manager Tavarsha Timmons, it means feeling comfortable being authentically Black.
“I can be myself entirely, whether that’s reflected in my vernacular, the way I dress or my hair,” she said. “Everybody appreciates each other’s unique personalities and grows from them.”
This culture of respect at connectRN allows Director of Growth Marketing Jared Grebner to feel equally empowered to embrace his identity as a gay man. The company’s welcoming environment is starkly different from those he has encountered at past workplaces.
“At other companies, I wouldn’t have been able to quote RuPaul’s Drag Race and have people know what I was talking about,” Grebner said. “It’s really cool that we can connect on multiple layers with many people.”
THE HEART OF HEALTHCARE
Before joining connectRN, Account Manager Eileen Newman felt like she had to bury certain aspects of her personality in order to thrive professionally. Now, she feels empowered to advocate for herself without being deemed too loud or opinionated.
“Being in this type of environment is critically important to me both professionally and personally,” Newman said. “If I ever leave this company, I better find a place that’s just like it.”
According to Newman, the company’s inclusivity is founded on the freedom to be unashamedly authentic; a sentiment that extends not only to those who work for the organization, but also to the people they serve. “Just as we feel like we can be ourselves at work, I want our clinicians to feel the same way.”
This focus on genuine care underlines every aspect of the organization, from the ways in which its employees bond with each other to its commitment to helping healthcare professionals grow their careers. Below, Timmons, Grebner and Newman outline how connectRN champions diversity and authenticity, enabling its people to empower clinicians in turn.
How is connectRN’s approach to fostering inclusivity different?
Timmons: We take several different steps to cultivating inclusion. Unlike other companies, we don’t have a dedicated diversity, equity and inclusion leader. Instead, we have a DEI committee, which enables anyone at any level to contribute. This allows us to sit together and discuss ways to honor the different heritages represented at the company. For instance, we planned a series of events to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We want to offer information about different backgrounds so everybody can embrace them.
Grebner: Since we’re a startup, we encourage everyone to have an entrepreneurial mindset and offer help wherever they can. Everyone is welcomed to make suggestions. Also, we have direct access to the leadership team. I’ve never been in a situation where I feel so comfortable talking to a CEO or anyone at a C-suite level. It doesn’t matter what position you hold at the company. We are all working toward the same goal, and employees are encouraged to talk to leaders. Everyone leaves their egos at the door.
Newman: The company is proactive when it comes to our mission, communications and DEI efforts. It makes up the thread of who we are. Rather than simply issuing a press statement when it comes to major business decisions, we ensure everyone has an opportunity to be heard. By allowing everyone to speak up, not only do we drive the best results for our nurses, but we also have the chance to show the world what connectRN has to offer.
How has the company’s focus on diversity bolstered your professional growth and interpersonal connections?
Timmons: Within our DEI committee, employees can hold positions at any career level and grow their leadership skills. We all take time to grow our knowledge, as well as that of the company, in order to ensure we’re as diverse as possible. We want to offer the rest of the organization important information that allows them to not only check a box, but understand the company’s impact from an environmental, social, political and cultural perspective. We aim to ensure that we’re continually teaching, learning and making a difference in our daily lives.
Grebner: This is why the lack of a dedicated DEI leader is beneficial for the company. Without someone who owns our initiatives, everyone is empowered to participate in cultivating inclusion. The company hosts an hour-long Chat & Chill event each week to make time for employees to decompress from work and bond together. Oftentimes these events are fun and educational ways to participate in DEI-related activities. This serves as career advancement in a sense, because it allows us to ultimately take the knowledge we learn and bring it to other organizations.
Newman: I’m cognizant of the fact that I am a woman with white privilege so I want my colleagues to know that my desk is a safe space for them to come and ask questions. Everyone here has the opportunity to take ownership of what’s important to them.
FOSTERING COMMUNITY FROM WITHIN
How does a culture of authenticity enable employees to more effectively support nursing professionals?
Grebner: What’s unique about our organization is that we don’t actually see nurses face to face during the hiring process, which significantly reduces the potential for discrimination. This allows us to make hiring decisions based on nurses’ actual skills. We want to give all nurses an opportunity and allow them to be their authentic selves.
Timmons: Our app was built by people with nursing backgrounds, and we want to make sure our clinicians know we have employees who have been in their shoes. We support users in many different areas, including mental health. We offer a safe space for them to talk to someone when they’re having difficult moments. Additionally, we have a partnership that enables nursing assistants to attend nursing school in order to further their careers. Considering we can get certifications in order to grow our careers at the company, we strive to enable our clinicians to do the same. We also aim to protect their personal well-being. For instance, if a clinician emails me to say their child is sick and they can’t make it to the doctor’s office, I’ll order a Lyft to get them there. We want to make a difference in their worlds every day.
“Everyone here has the opportunity to take ownership of what’s important to them.”
What inspires you the most about working at connectRN?
Timmons: Our DEI committee makes a huge difference in my life every day. It was the first thing I got involved in when I joined the company, and I immediately felt like my voice was heard. Two months into my role, I had the chance to do a presentation for the entire company on behalf of the committee. It also makes a difference when your company acknowledges Juneteenth and even pays out of pocket for clinicians to celebrate it if their employer doesn’t consider it a holiday.
Grebner: Our mission is what drives me the most. I’ve loved the work that I’ve done in the past, yet building profit and efficiency is different from supporting nursing professionals. We really put clinicians first, and I constantly hear feedback related to how they feel like we know them. What keeps me going at the end of the day is that there could be someone who desperately needs to find work, and we’re able to help them. Maybe it’s a certified nursing assistant who is eager to begin their nursing career, or a registered nurse who wants to pursue a different path after working in a hospital for 20 years. We offer all of these people opportunities to make a change.
Newman: Our mission is also what keeps me engaged and passionate. People tend to see salespeople as being focused on the bottom line. Yet at connectRN, we’re also looking for that avenue to constantly connect with our clinicians and find the best career fit for them, which we accomplish through different ways, such as locating communities in the long-term care space. We aim to find places that offer our clinicians the best possible way for them to work. It’s an entirely different approach, and it honestly makes me feel passionate about what we’re doing every day. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results, then healthcare has been insane for clinicians for too long. We’re trying to change that.