Diversity and Inclusion During a Time of Social Distancing

By Brigit Carter, PhD, RN, CCRN, Associate Dean for Diversity and InclusionDuke University School of Nursing

During this time of social isolation, it is critical to also put an emphasis on inclusion to support community members. Developing opportunities to support one’s mental, physical and emotional health will help to reduce isolation and decrease vulnerability to depression and anxiety. These activities can include a focus on disseminating trusted information, socialization and support and wellness.

Keeping the Community Informed

Providing quality and trusted information during the multiple changes associated with COVID-19 is key to creating a calmer and content community. Email has often been the way of communicating information, but with multiple sources in email, online and via television, it is important to have a singular source of dissemination to synthesize information. Developing daily key take-away emails that will help decipher all of the information being sent out within the community helps reduce misinformation and misunderstood information. Weekly Zoom town halls by the leader of your institution or organization also is an opportunity in the dissemination information but, most importantly, a time for the community to ask questions and get reassurance from leadership about changes, timelines and goals. It is also critical to address challenges and with diversity and equity by providing biweekly D&I Conversations that are open to the everyone to identify solutions that are specific to and will work within your community.

Socialization and Support

Humans are social beings and, during this time that restricts our ability to connect, can have an overwhelming effect on our mental well-being. Identifying opportunities to connect and share experiences is one mechanism to support our socialization. Having virtual coffee with friends,, lunchtime chats and Friday happy hours are  ways for us to connect and check in with each other. Another meaningful strategy is forming a random act of kindness team that anonymously sends small thoughtful tokens/gifts and words of support, encouragement and kindness through the mail. This has been a part of our community before, so continuing some strategies that were in place are important to maintain some normalcy..


Wellness is critical to our overall well-being. It is important to develop online mental health resources that are available to the entire community. Supporting physical well being by creating online and recorded physical fitness classes help the community come together for a shared purpose of remaining healthy. Find opportunities to integrate families into activities, such as creating fitness fun ideas to reduce the potential for parents to be isolated or prevented from participating in activities. Create virtual nutrition classes to encourage healthy eating and conversations with the dietician for ideas about making meals with food that already exists in the cabinet.

For examples of inclusive activities visit: https://nursing.duke.edu/faculty-staff-resources/duson-wellness

These strategies are designed to help maintain the health of the community until we can once again gather in the same space. Planning reunion celebration activities for when the restrictions associated with COVID-19 have ended will also provide a sense of hope and future when in the midst of strenuous and difficult challenges.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu