By Amy C. Waninger
About the series: See It to Be It is an interview series highlighting professional role models in a variety of industries. The goal of this series to draw attention to the vast array of possibilities available to emerging and aspiring professionals, with particular attention paid to support systems available for people of color within the industry
This interview features Dana Beckton, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Christiana Care, a hospital company in Delaware.
LC: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the healthcare industry and what about it appealed to you?
DB: I came into healthcare from the insurance industry, and actually I wasn’t drawn specifically to healthcare. There was an opportunity to do what I was doing in insurance, only in healthcare. A friend who was already working in health care had recommended a position for me to apply. In the early 2000s, a lot of companies in different industries were being bought out or weren’t financially solvent. Healthcare seemed to be that one industry where I didn’t see a lot of that. The particular organization that I was applying to was also very well known, and well respected across the country. So there was a level of security that led me to move into healthcare within the field that I was already in.
LC: So, you used your network to learn about new opportunities for yourself that you wouldn’t have known existed otherwise?
DB: Honestly, that’s how it was for almost every job I went to. I’ve gotten more opportunities from networking and word of mouth than I did from seeking it out intentionally.
LC: I’ve found that using your network doesn’t always mean somebody calls you and says, I want to hire. Sometimes it’s someone saying, “Hey, did you know about this position that’s open?” Or, “I heard about this role and I thought you might be a good fit.” It’s not always a job offer. Sometimes it’s just someone peeling back a layer of obfuscation. Have you found that to be true?
DB: That’s exactly what it was.
LC: What has been the biggest surprise to you about the healthcare industry that you wouldn’t have thought of or a misconception that you had before you were in the industry?
DB: I probably had the same misconception that many people have. Just a lack of understanding of the complexity and the number of different types of careers you can have in healthcare. When you hear healthcare you immediately think about doctors and nurses. But a lot of people don’t recognize that it’s almost like a city. Every type of career is possible from legal to facilities management to construction. Everything you could want to do, you can do in healthcare.
LC: If somebody is not in the healthcare industry today or they are looking for a way to learn more, where would you recommend that they go?
DB: The National Association of Health Service Executives has local chapters and provides great opportunities for networking, for learning about all of the different areas. In particular it tends to lean more towards the nonclinical side, which is good as well.
LC: A lot of industries or are talking about a talent crisis where they’re having a hard time attracting college graduates into the industry, or the feeder programs that used to exist don’t exist anymore. In other cases, people are leaving the industry in favor of other emerging industries. Healthcare has been around for a long time, but there are some newer industries that are attracting talent away. Could you talk a little bit about your thoughts on the current talent needs in your industry?
DB: We don’t see a real shortage in frontline, nontechnical roles like we do for more technical positions because people don’t know they exist. One example that I can give is around an emerging field in healthcare stemming from the change in healthcare. The healthcare industry is no longer confined to the hospital building. Healthcare is now moving out into the community. Healthcare is now engaging in populations outside of the hospital. Home health care nurses and home health aides are in demand, and it’s not easy to find people who can make that pivot.
Another industry shift occurred when ICD-10 coding was implemented. We didn’t have people who were immediately qualified to do medical coding, because it was something brand new. So our organization got really creative and they created, in partnership with a local college, a coder program. People from the community, as well as people internal to the hospital system, were able to go get their certification and then get placed into this new coder position. So sometimes the positions require a paradigm shift of how and where we find qualified talent.
The other thing that we are cognizant of is from a socialization standpoint is how to create those early pipelines into different positions. So something that I’m working on now is a program to get middle school boys interested in nursing. How do we socialize them? Young boys get socialized to think, “I’m a boy, I’ll become a doctor.” But there exists in our industry a growing desire to increase the number of male nurses.
LC: What are some organizations that exist to help POC feel supported and connected within the healthcare industry?
DB: The Student National Medical Association is an association dedicated to supporting and helping underrepresented students in medicine who are seeking to become doctors. They support college students who are pre-med, or who have a desire to be pre-med, and then it follows them all the way up through medical school. These organizations really do provide support systems for students so that they know that they aren’t alone, and that there is a cohort of people that are there to support them. A number of health systems are also big proponents and supporters of the organization.
LC: What about for non-doctors in the healthcare space? So as we talk about nurses and home health techs and physical therapists and medical coders and all of the other functions within the healthcare space, are there similar organizations helping people?
DB: We are helping young people of color find their place in those spaces as well. For almost any one of those positions you just named, you can go out and find the organizations that are there to support them that help with the job connections, help with the support, that just answer “How do I engage with people who have similar backgrounds when I’m one of the first in this field?”
LC: Any other recommendations for our readers?
DB: Check out Dr. Velma Scantlebury’s forthcoming book Beyond the Wall. Dr. Scantlebury was the first African American female transplant surgeon in the country. She’s one of my colleagues, and a very good friend, and she’s still practicing today.