There Is No Racism in Nursing. Right?
Nursing can be the most trusted profession and still struggle with the history and impact of racism on our careers and the care we provide. Both can be true at the same time.
Is it possible that the profession consistently considered the most honest and ethical could also be rife with structural and institutional racism? In a word, absolutely. Both can be true at the same time. Nursing can be the most trusted profession and still struggle with the history and impact of racism on our careers and the care we provide.
My decision to become a nurse is one of the best I have made in my life. Yet, I have had to navigate a profession that has failed to acknowledge racism within our education, workplaces, and organizations. Still, my experiences with racism have inspired my work to reduce the effects of racial bias on patients of color whose lives depend on equitable care.
For nurses of color, sharing our experiences with racism is validating, creates a sense of community, and reveals how much work is still needed to improve the path for the next generation of nurses.
I am one of 40 multigenerational Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) nurses from across the country who contributed to the Reckoning with Racism in Nursing Project. We shared our experiences with racism during our journey to become nurses and throughout our careers. The testimonials may be shocking to those who have never experienced racism. However, for us, sharing our stories was validating, created a sense of community, and revealed how much work is still needed to improve the path for the next generation of nurses.
The existence and impact of structural racism in nursing are supported by research.
The existence and impact of structural racism in nursing are also supported by research. For example, the compelling article Structural Racism in America: A Summative Content Analysis of National Nursing Organization Statements, suggests many nursing leaders were motivated by the killing of George Floyd in 2020 to finally acknowledge racism within the profession and call for systemic change. Since then, the American Nurses Association has released the National Commission on Racism in Nursing Report that provides a comprehensive history of racism in nursing and outlines how it continues to impact nursing education, clinical practice, policy, and research today. Finally, the Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting the Path to Achieve Health Equity Report encourages nurse leaders to work toward dismantling structural racism so we can progress toward achieving health equity.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin
One of my favorite James Baldwin quotes states, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Acknowledging that racism exists within the nursing profession is an uncomfortable but necessary first step. Now the work to make structural changes can begin.
The Health Equity NP
Whether you are a nurse or another profession, how has racism in impacted you and your career?
If you are a nurse, how does racism in the nursing profession impact patient's healthcare experiences and health outcomes?
What would the culture of your institution or organization look like if racial equity was the goal?