Healthcare is more diverse than ever, but many groups remain underrepresented in nursing. Because nurse educators are often engaged in their communities — interacting with students at colleges and universities, colleagues, and administrators in other facilities — they are uniquely positioned to help bridge the diversity divide.
There is much to gain from their efforts. “Increasing the number of nurses from different backgrounds, including races, gender, and ethnicities, will contribute to better health and healthcare for all,” says Campaign for Action. “From such diversity in nursing comes a deeper understanding of the elements that affect a person’s health and emotional well-being, and ultimately, improved care and treatment in order to achieve health equity.”
How Diverse Is the Current Nursing Workforce?
Historically, the RN workforce has been dominated by women and, generally, racially homogenous. However, over the past decade, nursing demographics have diversified a bit. Consider these statistics:
- In 2009, Campaign for Action data showed that more than 76% of nurses identified as white.
- By 2019, that number dropped to 69% as the representation of other groups increased, including the doubling of Hispanic nurses over the same timeframe.
- According to research, male nurses accounted for 1.92% of the workforce in 1977 and 9.6% in 2018.
This progress comes on the heels of the 2010 Future of Nursing report. Published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which was later renamed the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), nursing programs and educators were called upon to ensure a wider range of students had access to the field. Greater diversity in nursing not only bolsters the provision of culturally relevant care but is also key to reducing healthcare inequities.
How Can Nurse Educators Influence Diversity?
Racially and ethnically, today’s nursing workforce more closely resembles the U.S. population, though some demographics and groups are still underrepresented. Nurse educators can enhance healthcare diversity by doing one or more of the following:
Lead by example. It is important that nurses from all walks of life pursue nurse educator careers. “A lack of minority nurse educators may send a signal to potential students that nursing does not value diversity or offer career ladder opportunities to advance through the profession,” says the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Graduates of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Nurse Educator program can serve as a source of inspiration for students from similar backgrounds.
Foster cross-cultural communication. Everything from slang and abbreviations to body language and euphemisms can take on a different meaning in other cultures. In addition, English may not be the first language for patients or students, which creates additional communication barriers. Therefore, educators should take care in their phrasing, be active listeners, and foster appropriate communication that meets the needs of each student.
Mentor underrepresented students. Nurse educators can serve as mentors to struggling and underrepresented students. Checking in regularly to answer questions and offer assistance helps a student feel supported. You can also host study groups or monthly workshops to build camaraderie and keep students on the path to graduation.
Deepen community engagement. Nurse educators are excellent advocates for the nursing profession. Through community outreach events, such as high school visits or through partnerships with organizations like the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) or the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN), educators can inform younger generations about the benefits of a nursing career and begin discussing the importance of continued diversity.
Increasing healthcare diversity is a lofty but worthwhile goal and one of the avenues through which equitable care is attainable. Nurse educators can encourage this diversity, both in the classroom and throughout their communities.
Learn more about Worcester State University’s online MSN Nurse Educator program.
Campaign for Action:
Increasing Diversity in Nursing
Racial/Ethnic Composition of the RN Workforce in the U.S.