Team Member Spotlight: Doneath Stewart on nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion

At Omni, “respect, always” is not only one of our policies, but also our guiding light for how we operate as a business and how everyone who comes through our doors should be treated. The “respect, always” policy is just one aspect of how Omni prioritizes DEI.

Doneath Stewart, Director of Operations at Omni, champions this policy and all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives across the organization.  

How did Doneath arrive in her current role as Director of Operations?

Doneath completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing at Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University). Subsequently, she pursued a Master’s in Health Studies with a focus on Leadership at Athabasca University, graduating in December 2020. Doneath has been part of the Omni family for eight years, starting as a Director of Care and working her way through various areas of the business before arriving in her current position as Director of Operations. Her diverse portfolio encompasses overseeing operations for four long-term homes, managing emergency preparedness, educating team members on behavioral support, and leading initiatives in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

How did DEI become a core business priority at Omni?

During the COVID-19 pandemic the Omni leadership team noted a surge in negative expressions from homes and staff related to allegations of discrimination. Fueling this surge was the current staffing environment in long-term care, increased agency use, as well as residents and families refusing care from care staff with unfounded prejudice.

Omni’s existing “respect, always” policy was exercised, with every complaint taken seriously. However, staff expressions of their ongoing concerns, prompted the realization that a change was needed from the top down This feedback led to a deeper initiative to explore the current state of DEI within the organization and how Omni could embed this deeply into the organization.

How did Omni determine where to start?

To understand the existing perceptions around DEI, Omni conducted a survey among staff, families, and residents. Although respondents were familiar with DEI concepts. Recognizing the importance of education, Omni started a journey that involved continuous learning. Doneath and various team members became highly engaged in Ontario Centres for Learning, Research, and Innovation (CLRI) in Long-Term Care , a critical resource for learning and education. She engaged in community care practices, webinars, and seeking information to bridge gaps in understanding. The initiative aimed to address unconscious bias and began with the powerful notion that inclusion starts with “I.”

How did Omni ensure the DEI initiatives would be fully integrated into the organization?

Omni first engaged a development consultant to review the face of the organization and reshape Omni’s mission, vision, and values to ensure that DEI was represented in Omni’s Strategic Plan. A two-day session with administrators and the Omni leadership team then laid the foundation, and a working group, including Doneath, ensured processes were in place to implement the embedding of ‘inclusiveness’ in the strategic plan effectively.

How did Omni ensure diverse voices were heard in the organization?

To gauge the perspectives of both leadership and staff on DEI, Omni conducted an additional survey prior to the annual leadership forum. The results revealed perceived disparities in perceptions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The leadership forum featured a presentation comparing these perspectives, emphasizing that diversity extends beyond ethnicity to encompass age, disability, sexuality, and more.

Omni has also participated in an educational pilot program with CLRI for Cultural Humility in Healthcare, involving five Omni long-term care homes. Policies are being developed to guide homes in DEI efforts, with a dedicated DEI committee at the home office assisting in implementation and the set-up of additional residence-specific committees.

How is Omni fostering a culture of respect and inclusiveness in its long-term care homes?

Omni’s “respect, always” policy underscores our passion for people, recognizing and celebrating individual uniqueness. By focusing on inclusivity and embracing differences, Omni encourages staff and residents to carry their uniqueness throughout their journey with the organization.

In conclusion, Omni’s commitment to DEI is not just a policy but a cultural transformation, spearheaded by individuals like Doneath, who have dedicated their efforts to create an inclusive and respectful environment in long-term care and retirement homes.