Empath Health is ensuring access to care

Karen Davis-Pritchett, M.ED.

BY KAREN DAVIS-PRITCHETT, M.ED., Empath Health Vice President of Access & Inclusion

Finding a sense of belonging is an essential part of life and something everyone strives to reach on some level. Empath Health recognizes this need within our community, our employees, our patients, families, and its critical role in advancing our mission.

Within Pinellas County and nationally, communities of color and other diverse groups face unique challenges to accessing end-of-life care. Empath Health is working to build both formal and informal local partnerships to deconstruct and remove these barriers.

Since joining Empath Health five years ago as a community partnership specialist, I’ve been working to ensure all people understand what Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health, can provide for end-of-life care. Everyone should have access to quality care when living with a chronic or advanced illness, regardless of their race, ethnicity, zip code, gender identity, or religion.

I have been able to experience the extraordinary support of Suncoast Hospice as they supported my loved one’s journey. It is important to me that all communities have accurate information about hospice care for them to make informed decisions for themselves, a family member, or a friend.

As a National Diversity Council Certified Diversity professional, I am dedicated to understanding the various communities present in our county to provide leadership to our organization that will result in being culturally responsive.

A commonly-seen barrier is a fear that the family will have no control over the care of their loved one once they enroll in hospice care. We are here to walk alongside each family, honoring their cultural differences and choices for care.

Empath Health is proud to have earned the SAGECare Platinum Credential through SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), a national advocacy and services organization providing training and consulting on LGBT aging issues. Suncoast Hospice also holds a Jewish Hospice Certification through the National Institute for Jewish Hospice.

Part of our onboarding process for new employees is a full day dedicated to understanding diversity, equity and inclusion and how it informs the care we provide. We are continually providing training to ensure our staff has the knowledge and cultural responsiveness needed at such a vulnerable time for patients.

Our full-time community partnership specialists ensure we are creating programming and outreach that is relevant and responsive to specific needs. They lead care councils comprised of community members who act as an advisory board and share their insight and feedback regarding our community engagement. As we continue to have a presence and collaborate with other community organizations, it helps ensure inclusivity, amplifies diverse voices, and helps remove access barriers.

Volunteers also play an essential part in reaching our diverse community. Whether providing companionship to patients or calling bereaved families, volunteers help provide a comforting connection. Additionally, community groups are essential to meaningful conversations through hosting presentations and workshops or co-facilitating these programs with us.

Engaging volunteers is another component of our outreach. Our volunteers provide important services to our patients and families. They are part of increasing access by helping us expand our care, message and mission.

I recognize the power of community and the essential roles that various organizations, faith leaders, volunteers, community members and our care councils play in helping everyone access Suncoast Hospice care.

Learn more about services offered by Empath Health or volunteer opportunities by visiting EmpathHealth.org

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