Hair care is part of health care: Minnesota hospitals change how they welcome Black and brown patients

“They love the products,” said Tshilanda Nyembwe, a nurse in HCMC’s internal medicine department. “They are begging us not to stop because we are giving them what they use at home, and they’re happy…. We were taking care of their diagnosis with medication and physical therapy and occupational therapy, but we just missed the little thing that made the difference.”

“Hospitals are uncomfortable places,” said Dr. Nneka Sederstrom, chief health equity officer at Hennepin Healthcare, which runs HCMC. “You don’t feel like yourself; you feel scared and nervous and vulnerable. And it’s the little things that make you feel safe and whole. We have not been allowing that sense of normalcy to be part of the experience for Black and brown patients.”

Meanwhile, Susan Walters, a supply chain manager at Hennepin Healthcare, had been looking into a hospital-wide switch of products since 2019, when she heard that Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania was planning to do so.