By: Mallori Walker MSN, RN, CPNP
Professionally, I am a pediatric nurse practitioner, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advocate, and a nursing educator. In my professional work space, I am 1 of 1. I have been told by a patient that they did not want me to provide their care because of the color of my skin. I have been told that I’m “alright” for a colored person. I have been told that I speak well “for a Black person”. Yikes, right? Personally, I am a Black woman who wants similar things to you, specifically, respect. But, my walk through life forces me to “accept” these comments all while maintaining an elite level of professionalism. Let that sink in!
Now that you aware of some of my experiences, I want to focus on you. What comes to mind when you think of DIVERSITY? I venture a strong guess that this nine letter word is atop the Most Utilized Words of 2020 list. And if I am being completely honest, I am not mad about it. Ok….back to my question. What comes to mind when you think of DIVERSITY? For me, someone who does a lot of work in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) space, I think of several dimensions. Those include, but are not limited to: race, sexual orientation, religion, personality, income, age, gender, ability, marital status, work experience, and seniority.
2018 data from minoritynurses.com showed that roughly 25% of nurses identified as minorities, 9% identified as male, and 44.6 was the average age of nurses. Why do I share these statistics? I do so to remind us all that we are not a very diverse profession, and to encourage you to think about the implications of our lack of diversity. Does it impact our patient care? Does it impact our engagement with our colleagues? Does it impact promotion and/or career advancement?
Take a minute to analyze the nurses you work alongside every day. How diverse are they? How diverse are the colleagues that you tend to gravitate to? Then, take it one step further and think of your life outside of work. How diverse is your friend group? And, does this matter to you? I am challenging you with these questions because often times, we surround ourselves with people that look and think like us. I am not saying that is wrong, but I am saying that in these situations we are not often challenged to consider other ways of thinking, others’ walks through life, and nor are we likely to identify our blind spots.
Furthermore, when we live in our homogenous bubbles, how do we know when what we say is problematic? How do we know when the way we speak about or act towards a patient is a result of our biases? How do we begin to honor diversity and promote inclusion? These things cannot happen until we acknowledge our shortcomings, identify our blind spots, and diversify our surroundings to therefore diversify our minds.
Research shows that minority patients have better health outcomes and report greater patient satisfaction when they are cared for by healthcare providers that match their race or ethnicity. These providers spend, on average, more time with and provide more thorough education to their patients. Every patient, regardless of their race or ethnicity, deserves this quality of care.
I have posed a lot questions. I have challenged you. I have asked you to think about things that are likely not a part of your everyday thought. So, now what? Make the necessary shift. Start on your unit. Start in your own bubble. Where are there areas for growth? Have you and your colleagues addressed how your implicit biases can negatively impact the patients for which you provide care? Which organizational policies and procedures need reassessed? What are your personal blind spots? We cannot stop there though. Join a committee. Meet with leadership to encourage change. If we truly expect to remain the most trusted profession, this will require a commitment from each one of us to make diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority within our personal and professional lives as well as within our organizations.