Dartmouth Health hosts training session from March of Dimes on dismantling biases in maternal care

A provider places a stethoscope on a pregnant person's belly

A group of Dartmouth Health neonatal healthcare providers took part in an implicit bias training session earlier this month through the March of Dimes. Dartmouth Health was one of just 20 healthcare organizations nationwide selected to take part in “Awareness to Action: Dismantling Bias in Maternal and Infant Healthcare.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, implicit bias is a form of bias that occurs automatically and unintentionally, affecting judgments, decisions, and behaviors. Implicit biases can be based on race, gender or age.

“Dismantling implicit bias for mothers in our care, especially women of color and other marginalized women, is an essential step in improving health equity,” said Teresa Dean Malcolm, MD, FACOG, MBA, CPE, PCC, vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Dartmouth Health and an obstetrician-gynecologist by training, who took part in the session. “As Dartmouth Health moves ahead in its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging journey, this educational and interactive learning session from the March of Dimes provided an invaluable resource to our neonatal team for their role in this process to better healthcare for all.”

A total of 28 Dartmouth Health clinicians across neonatology, pediatrics and obstetrics took part in the virtual training session. The session included four key lessons:

  • An overview of implicit bias and personal assessment
  • An historical overview of structural racism in the United States
  • Strategies to mitigate racial bias in maternity care
  • Building a culture of equity within an organization

The session was organized by Jennifer A. Orbeso, DNP, MAN, RN, a clinical nurse in the intensive care nursery (ICN) and a nursing diversity and inclusion specialist at Dartmouth Health member Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

“As part of the training, the March of Dimes was able to give us critical feedback on where we are excelling in dismantling implicit bias in maternal care, and where there is room for improvement,” Orbeso said. “For example, in the Upper Valley, where the population is overwhelmingly white, our scores are overall very positive, but the results were more mixed in southern New Hampshire, which has a more diverse population. Our patient population is changing, and we need to train our staff to deal with this. There has to be a change in the focus of how we deal with patients.”

“One of the most common things I hear during trainings is, ‘I did not even realize I had biases,’” said Rahni Jenkins, vice president of mission operations for the March of Dimes. “One participant told me, ‘I thought I was doing right by my patients until I had this training. Now I realize how much better I can do.’ It’s really about building that understanding, building that awareness. Everyone is at a different place in their journey.”

Participants in the training session expressed gratitude for the chance to recognize implicit biases and how to rectify it, improving patient care and making them better healthcare providers in the process.

“The implicit bias training was extremely valuable to me as an educator,” said Lillian F. Roberts, MSN, RNC-NIC, IBCIC, a clinical nurse educator in the ICN. “Through this engaging online learning, I learned how to identify my own bias to better meet the needs of the nurses I teach. This training did an excellent job contextualizing the historical and structural issues that contribute to the childbirth health disparities in the United States. I also liked how the training provided concrete guidance on how healthcare providers can help create an equitable culture. I plan on integrating what I learned into the curriculum for new staff nurses in my department.”

The training session is part of a broader, ongoing relationship between Dartmouth Health and the March of Dimes. Earlier this year, the ICN team at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (CHaD) was able to host a baby shower for families of CHaD babies, complete with gifts, games and activities for families to enjoy, with support from the March of Dimes.

“It was a day that felt normal for families whose worlds were turned upside down,” said Joanna F. Celenza, an ICN family support specialist at CHaD. “The support of the March of Dimes and our partners made it possible and was a reminder that we live in a very generous community.”

To learn more about the March of Dimes, visit the March of Dimes website.

About Dartmouth Health

Dartmouth Health, New Hampshire's only academic health system and the state's largest private employer, serves patients across northern New England. Dartmouth Health provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, as well as across its wide network of hospitals, clinics and care facilities. DHMC is consistently named the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in numerous clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth Health includes Dartmouth Cancer Center, one of only 56 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, and the only such center in northern New England; Dartmouth Health Children’s, which includes Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the state’s only children’s hospital, and multiple clinic locations around the region; member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene and New London, NH, and Bennington and Windsor, VT; Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and more than 24 clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. Through its historical partnership with Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth Health trains nearly 400 medical residents and fellows annually, and performs cutting-edge research and clinical trials recognized across the globe with Geisel and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT. Dartmouth Health and its more than 13,000 employees are deeply committed to serving the healthcare needs of everyone in our communities, and to providing each of our patients with exceptional, personal care.