The importance of diversity in nursing cannot be overstated. A diverse healthcare workplace helps to boost staff morale, employee retention, and patient satisfaction. Not to mention, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2044 more than half of all Americans will belong to a minority group. Hospitals and other health facilities will need nurses with diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds to effectively and efficiently care for our increasingly diverse population.
What do we mean by diversity in nursing?
Diversity isn’t just about gender, race, or sexual orientation. What’s important is that nurses demonstrate diversity sensitivity and awareness. The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines diversity awareness as “acknowledgment and appreciation of differences in attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, and priorities in the health-seeking behaviors of different patient populations.”
With a culturally and ethnically diverse population, it’s essential that healthcare professionals provide culturally competent patient care. When nurses can understand and relate to their patients’ needs and communicate with cultural awareness and sensitivity, patient care is improved, and we move towards achieving health equity.
What can we do to improve diversity in nursing?
One of the primary ways to improve diversity in nursing is to encourage and support underrepresented groups to join the nursing profession and empower them to thrive and advance in their career.
Fortunately, many schools of nursing and other organizations have done a tremendous amount of work to provide increased educational opportunities for minority groups. Reports from the Campaign for Action show that the student population enrolled in advanced nursing education across the country is becoming increasingly more diverse.
There are, however, several areas of opportunity to improve cultural sensitivity and awareness for RNs, nurse practitioners, and specialists including nurse-midwives and nurse informaticists. The primary areas of improvement include communication, inclusivity, and breaking down diversity barriers. Here’s what you can do:
- Seek to understand the patient’s background, perspectives, and point of view in order to communicate with cultural sensitivity
- Effectively listen to the patient and look for verbal and non-verbal cues such as body language for better understanding
- Be sensitive to potential communication barriers from language, gender identity, or sexual orientation
- Look for nursing programs that put a focus on diversity and equality—inclusive practices begin in the classroom
- Seek out schools of nursing that provide educational opportunities for underrepresented minorities
- Pursue training and job opportunities that offer a diverse and inclusive work environment
- Always strive to provide culturally competent care that improves patient quality and care outcomes
Break Down Diversity Barriers
- Embrace individual differences including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity
- Join organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) help nurses and patients from all walks of life access valuable resources
- Advance your career and take on leadership positions that can enable you to make positive change Continually encourage racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the nursing workforce