By Teresa Mauk, MSN, RN
As patient populations become increasingly diverse and minority populations are projected to become the majority by 2043, a diverse nursing workforce with the ability to provide culturally competent care is more important than ever.
According to the latest nursing workforce data provided by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers,19.2% of RNs are minorities and 29% of LPN/LVNs are minorities.
|American Indian or Alaska Native||0.4%||0.6%|
|Hispanic or Latino origin||5.3%||7.4%|
|Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander||0.5%||0.2%|
Achieving nursing workforce diversity begins with nursing education, and strides must be made to recruit and graduate more nurses from underrepresented groups to better parallel the patient population.
Some practical ways that nursing education can promote diversity include:
- Striving to recruit a more diverse nursing faculty
- Strengthening efforts to enroll more underrepresented students (e.g., eliminate cultural barriers, targeted outreach)
- Providing faculty development workshops focused on teaching practices that foster inclusion and equity such as the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NSCORE)
- Encouraging professional commitment by nursing faculty to increase self-awareness of potential implicit bias within themselves and in the classroom or clinical settings
- Ensuring diversity in student and faculty representation on committees charged with developing policies and practices for nursing programs
- Creating partnerships with diverse professional nursing associations, such as the National Black Nurses Association or National Association of Hispanic Nurses that will provide mentors and professional connections with similar backgrounds
- Providing retention initiatives for underrepresented students including mentorship; counseling; and academic, social, and financial support
- Ensuring that the curriculum includes culturally appropriate care for diverse populations and addresses health and healthcare disparities
- Integrating culturally inclusive material into course assignments and clinical simulations
Nursing educators are charged with bridging the gap between ‘the art and science of nursing,’ because one cannot exist without the other if nurses are to be effective. Part of the ‘art’ involves teaching students how to interact with, and respond to, an increasingly diverse patient population with compassion, while embracing an appreciation and respect for individual differences. Because, after all, every patient wants to be cared for by that exceptional nurse who is impossible to forget!