The Business Case for Diverse Leadership

The Business Case for Diverse Leadership

How do you measure the impact of diverse leadership in the workplace?

Part of the answer may be in dollars and cents. A recent study found that large companies with more diverse leaders reported better financial results.

A study of 366 public companies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Mexico, Chile and Brazil by McKinsey & Co., a major management consultancy, found “a statistically significant relationship between a more diverse leadership and better financial performance.”

Companies with gender diversity that ranked in the top quartile were 15 percent more likely to have financial results above their national industry median. The returns were even better for companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity. These businesses were 30 percent more likely to have financial returns that outpaced their industry.

On the other hand, companies that ranked in the bottom quartile for ethnicity/race and gender were less likely to achieve above average financial results.

The link between diversity at the highest levels and increased profitability should not be a head scratcher. Highly diverse companies appear to excel financially due to their recruitment efforts and talent pipelines, improved decision-making, strong customer orientation and increased employee satisfaction, the report said.

How does your workplace fare in the diversity arena? Are the decision-makers reflective of an increasingly changing nation, not just in in terms of gender and ethnicity/race, but also sexual orientation and age?

Is there a systematic approach to achieve a diverse talent pool where you work?

Investing in diversity not only increases creativity and encourages personal growth, it can improve your workplace’s competitive edge. Learn more at

Let us know what you think.

Robin writes about health, business and education. Visit her at


Tips to Make 2015 Different

Tips to Make 2015 Different

As the new year gets underway, have you thought about a new way of thinking and acting?

We all know the saying: Jan. 1 is the first blank page of a 365-page book. What will you write and how will it differ from last year? To prevent carrying over a negative attitude into 2015, consider taking these steps:

Adjust your attitude. Transforming your thoughts can shift your perspective and bring you inner peace. Try focusing on gratitude and forgiveness each day to enjoy life more. A positive mindset may not immediately change your circumstances, but it may eventually change your life,

Set up a gratitude jar. Place it in a visible spot so you are not tempted to ignore it like most of last year’s resolutions. Fill it with notes about anything you are thankful for during the year. Share it with loved ones. On New Year’s Eve, read your memorable moments aloud.

Create a vision board. Choose words and images that inspire you. When we are inspired we are more likely to take action. Your board should reflect the kind of life you want, which can include career as well as vacations and a dream home.

Keep a “done” journal. It is fine to focus on what you plan to do, but keeping a separate accounting of time actually spent on working toward your goals may help you use your time better. If writing a novel is one of your top priorities, note the number of pages or words you write each day.

A new year is the opportunity to be better than you were the year before.

Maybe Ghandi said it best: “Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.”

Let us know how you are doing!

Robin Farmer is a freelance writer with a focus on engaging, educating and empowering readers. Visit her at


Nurses Must Protect Themselves from Ebola

Nurses Must Protect Themselves from Ebola

Any nurse concerned about being ill-prepared to care for Ebola patients should be able to refuse the assignment. So says the leader of the American Nurses Association [ANA].

“We strongly encourage nurses to speak up if they believe there is inadequate planning, education or treatment related to providing care to these or any patients, and seek to resolve any conflicts of responsibility swiftly,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.

“Nurses should have the right to refuse an assignment if they do not feel adequately prepared or do not have the necessary equipment to care for Ebola patients,” Cipriano said in a news release.

At Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan — the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. — died last week, nurses publicly stated that nurses treating him lacked protective gear and that protocols constantly changed. Two of those nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson, were diagnosed with Ebola. Texas Health Presbyterian officials defended its Ebola procedures, saying it followed CDC protocols, USA Today reported. 

Emory’s special isolation unit – one of five on the nation – has successfully treated three cases of Ebola without any medical professionals becoming infected. But even there, to allay fears, volunteers were sought and staff were allowed to decline the assignments, according to Forbes.

Around the world, about 400 health care staff have Ebola, and more than 230 have died, according to CNN.

Stopping Ebola in its tracks will require a global response to the crisis in West Arica and a collaborative approach involving interprofessional, state and federal organizations in this nation, said Cipriano.

Robin Farmer is a freelance content specialist with a focus on health, business and education. Visit her at


The Impact of Racist Patients

The Impact of Racist Patients

When sick and injured patients arrive at hospitals for treatment, they also bring with them their unhealthy prejudices and biases. On the frontline of health care and healing, nurses may find themselves dealing with patients who prefer a caregiver who is of the same race. Patients—or their loved ones—may express their racial preference with negative comments and intolerant behavior, or directly voice their desire for another nurse. In a perfect world, hospital management would not cater to racially biased requests or demands. But real life is imperfect.

One blatantly racist incident involving an African American nurse made national headlines in 2012 when a white, swastika-tattooed father demanded that no black nurse care for his sick baby at a Michigan hospital. That case served as a springboard for several lawsuits and as a template for health care providers of exactly what not to do. Tonya Battle, a 25-year nurse at Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, worked in the neonatal intensive care unit when she met the white parent. After introducing herself, she was told by him to get her supervisor. The father relayed his racial preference to the supervisor, who reassigned Battle.

According to the Lansing State Journal, Battle said that a note was posted on the assignment clipboard reading: “No African American nurse to take care of baby.” Hospital officials removed the sign from the assignment chart after a short time. Still, black nurses were not assigned to care for the infant for about a month “because of their race,” according to the lawsuit. Battle’s case has since been settled.

While such overt incidents are isolated, no one should be shocked by racist patients, says Roberta Waite, EdD, APRN, CNS-BC, FAAN, associate professor of nursing and assistant dean of academic integration and evaluation of community programs at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.

“Racism is prevalent within our society. At times it’s been more covert and other times it has been more overt. It’s much more covert now,” says Waite, although it depends on geographical areas. “The more shocking component is: what do we do about it? How do we talk about it? How do we work with our students if we work with them at all? And how do we have these discussions amongst our colleagues?”

Whatever the solutions may be for patients who discriminate against nurses based on race, physicians need them, too. A 2010 survey of emergency room doctors found that patients often reject the physician assigned to them and request a doctor of the same race, gender, or religion. Their requests are routinely accommodated. If the patient request came from someone who was female, non-white, or Muslim, it was more likely to be granted.

“It’s medicine’s open secret,” Kimani Paul-Emile, an associate professor of law at Fordham University, told The New York Times. Paul-Emile did not respond to Minority Nurse’s requests for an interview but has written extensively on the topic. “The medical profession knows this happens but doesn’t want to talk about it,” she wrote in an article in the UCLA Law Review titled “Patients’ Racial Preferences and the Medical Culture of Accommodation.”

So, how do nurses of color handle patient encounters they believe stem from bigotry?

For Stephanie Stith, RN, a travel nurse for the past 10 years of her 15-year career, staying calm is a coping strategy. “I just mainly look [at them]. I give myself some time, because it’s not worth losing a job for.” She recalled one experience involving a patient who told her he was a member of the white supremacist Aryan Nation. “He looked at me and said, ‘I hate niggers.’ I said, ‘Good, so do I.’”

No other nurse was available to treat him, so she assumed her medical duties. As she worked, he continued his racist rant until she reminded him it was not smart to deride the person helping him stay alive. “I wanted him to know that I have the power over your life, and you are calling me names? Not that I was going to do anything; I just wanted him to think,” explains Stith, who says she deals more with slights than outright racism. For example, patients sometimes assume she is a medical tech instead of a registered nurse because she is black.

Stith also refrains from becoming emotional when responding to racist patients. “I need a paycheck. It doesn’t benefit me to get indignant. You can call me ‘nigger’ and say whatever you want, but at the end of the week I cash my paycheck. I am contracted to perform a service. I can’t change anybody’s mind or attitude. All I can do is be the best I can.”

Retired nurse Dinah Penaflorida, RN, MPH, MSN, agrees. Her advice for new nurses dealing with such requests is to remember that “the patient’s comfort and trust comes first. It is more important to be patient-centered in the care than to take the patient’s request personally. When the patient is in pain and suffering, it is not the time to talk about race and discrimination.”

Penaflorida was born and raised in the Philippines. At 16, she received an American Field Service Scholarship to spend a year in Hutchinson, Kansas. As a staff nurse at Kansas University Medical Center in the 1980s, she encountered a few patients who requested a Caucasian nurse instead of her. When it occurred, she went to the charge nurse to comply with the request to “create a more comfortable environment for the patient to heal.”  She left those experiences behind her when she moved to the West Coast. “Working in California was different. I did not experience that,” says Penaflorida.

Focusing on caregiving instead of the patient’s name-calling or other forms of intolerance is the best strategy, nurses say. “l always keep in the back of my mind that I had the best training going because I am a nurse of color,” says Deborah Bowser, RN, who has a master’s degree in health services administration and is a practice administrator in Richmond. “Most of my instructors were nurses of color and they dealt with worse situations than I have. They always instilled in us that ‘you will be judged by the color of your skin and it will be assumed you are not a RN, and you do not have the experience.’ They took no slack from us. We were the best of the best.”

Bowser recalled being rebuffed by two white patients during her 43-year career. Both incidents happened in New York during her night shift. Each time, her supervisor told the patient she was one of the best nurses. “One patient decided they did not want to be treated by me because I was black, so I informed my supervisor. The patient was extremely ill, so I said, ‘You have a choice; let your prejudices go by the side and let me take care of you. I know what I am doing.’ In one incident the patient said ‘yes,’ and in another the patient said ‘no’ and did not get care for a very long time because there was no other nurse who was Caucasian who could care for that patient.”

Bowser says she would like to think in this day and age that race-based requests would be nonexistent, “but you are going to have people who do not want people of color touching them” regardless of their expertise. For any young nurse of color who encounters such patients, “carry yourself with pride and get a mentor to help you,” she advises.

Racist patients can overwhelm young nurses, says LaDonna Northington, DNS, RN, BC, professor of nursing and director of traditional undergraduate studies at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) School of Nursing. “A young nurse would probably be intimidated and wouldn’t know what to do but leave out of the room, so they have to find a mentor to help them… problem solve through a situation like that. A seasoned nurse is able to take a high road. If you try to take care of the patient, they can call it assault,” so a nurse must learn how to accommodate a patient from a legal standpoint, she explains.

“For a young nurse, they should get their charge nurse or head nurse to intervene. It’s a tough call,” says Northington, who has not dealt with a racist patient during her 35-year career.

“I can’t recall an incident when I was on the floor taking care of patients where I felt like a patient did not want me to take care of them because I was black…and you would think if it was anywhere blatant, it would be in the South where we are. I haven’t heard the students talk about it. It could be in pockets [of communities] or people deal with it in a different way.” The UMMC School of Nursing addresses sensitivity and cultural awareness and understanding, she says, adding it’s possible that black patients may reject white nurses. “An elderly black person who has never trusted white people because of Tuskegee and those kinds of things and Mississippi history” may request a black nurse.

Discussing race makes many people uncomfortable, but nurses say it’s part of the solution. “When you are talking about the elephants in the room, we talk more openly about religious differences… and gender or sexual orientation, but when you get to race, there is so much more hostility and changing the subject,” says Waite. “It’s not talked about openly… oftentimes not at all. I’m not shocked that those incidents occur; I am actually surprised it doesn’t occur more often.”

Waite uses a social justice framework to talk about such topics as power, privilege, oppression, “and every ism” in a leadership course she teaches all undergraduate health profession students, including nurses. “I explicitly talk about it. However, most often within nursing clinical courses the topic is called ‘cultural competence.’ That’s the catch-all phrase that overlays issues of culture and diversity. That phrase is probably in everybody’s syllabus; however, how each person operationalizes what they do in teaching their students will vary,” she says. It will come down to how comfortable that faculty member is in guiding or leading or discussing issues regarding race, she adds.

At the University of Texas-Pan American nursing department, the curriculum emphasizes culture and cultural differences among people, says Carolina G. Huerta, EdD, RN, FAAN, nursing department professor and chair. In one required course, undergraduate students spend at least two weeks listening to lectures and discussing the impact of culture on nursing care, with particular attention paid to debunking stereotypes and focusing primarily on each person’s uniqueness. The course aims to sensitize students to issues related to racism and stereotyping.

“Once admitted to our program, every student must address cultural implications of their nursing care following each of their clinicals,” explains Huerta. “There is a section on their assigned clinical paperwork that must be turned in that deals strictly with cultural implications of care. The students are asked to reflect on the patient that they cared for and address any cultural implications, whether these deal with the foods the patient ate, religious affiliations, overt or covert racism, family issues, et cetera.”

While some patients will always express a racial preference for nurses, what matters most is how the institution and administration respond to such requests. “If you cater and say ‘no black people will work with you,’ that’s the problem,” Waite argues. “A patient has the right to decide who will care for them, but they can’t do it in a discriminatory manner. Instead, the response could be ‘Everyone here is competent to take care of you. If you choose to [reject care from a specific nurse] that is fine, you can go to another hospital.’”

Most of the hospitals that have been in the news “gave in” to racial preferences, Waite notes. Hopefully, most hospitals have a statement within their policy on how to engage and work with clients if anything like this surfaces. Talking about these issues is key, she adds.

“I think oftentimes today, people think either you are racist or not. It’s not that you are racist or not; racism is a spectrum,” says Waite. “All of us continuously struggle to deal with prejudice and bias because no one is perfect. When trying to understand where these thoughts come from and not feed into it, we move society forward. And it’s going to move forward as we are able to have these open and authentic conversations with one another.”

Robin Farmer covers health, business, and education as a freelance journalist. Based in Virginia, she contributes frequently to Minority Nurse magazine and website. Visit her at


10 Steps to Achieving Happiness – Part Two

10 Steps to Achieving Happiness – Part Two

Happiness is desirable, yet elusive. Celebrated and fleeting. Happiness is a hard emotion to define, but you know it when you feel it on the job, at home, with loved ones and with yourself.


The first step is to define what happiness means to you. Is it internal or external? Can you find happiness or does happiness find you? Is happiness a by-product of life or the primary goal? Whatever you decide, there are some steps to take to help you on your happiness quest.


Here are 10 habits to help you pave the way for happiness:

Smile. It’s a people magnet. Others will gravitate to you because you exude a pleasant disposition.

Understand what makes you happy. This will help you focus on specific interests, goals and passions to achieve the happiness you desire.

Get enough sleep. Research shows that too many people operate with a sleep debt. Adequate sleep improves memory, strengthens the immune system and increases productivity.

Do something nice for yourself daily. It can be small, such as watching the sunset or your favorite TV show.

Believe you are worthy.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is crucial that you  remind yourself that you deserve to be happy. Take meaningful steps daily.

Avoid Jealousy. It’s toxic. Focus on being inspired by the success of others.

Own your mistakes. Learn from them and grow. Finger-pointers are not happy people.

Exercise and stay active. Heard of endorphins released during exercise? They make you feel happy.

Let go what’s gone. Dwelling on the past gets you nowhere fast. Forgive others and yourself and move on.

Create a “Silver Lining Playbook.” Yes, this is the name of a 2012 film, but it also concisely captures a crucial mental habit: stay optimistic. Try to look at the bright side.

Good luck on your happiness journey. If you find the going getting tough there’s another reason to stay the course: Happy people tend to be healthier.

Robin Farmer is a freelance content specialist with a focus on health, business and education. Visit her at