Palliative care can be equally rewarding and challenging. Patients are navigating the emotional and physical turbulence of terminal illness. The right professional can be instrumental in ensuring patients’ needs are met to make their period of care more comfortable.
So much of who people are impacts their experience of the palliative journey. This includes the nuances of their cultural, racial, and socioeconomic identities. It should be no question, then, that minority nurses are an invaluable resource at this time. Yet, the current state of palliative care suggests that the industry doesn’t quite reflect this.
Let’s explore the intersection of minority identity and palliative care nursing. What are the opportunities for minority nurses, and why are they so vital in addressing the challenges related to this sector?
The Opportunities for Minority Nurses
There’s no question that the medical sector, in general, is in greater need of nurses from various backgrounds. However, it’s also essential to look at the disparities within specializations. The needs of patients taking their palliative care journey suggest that minority nurses can find plenty of opportunities in this field.
The changing demographics of the aging population reflect this. It’s worth noting that there is relatively little research into the racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care staff. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that suggests a need for change. A Journal of Palliative Medicine study reported that over the next 20 years, the population of older minorities is expected to grow by 160%. This is far more than their white counterparts. The same study also cited a bereaved families survey that found “African Americans were less satisfied with the quality of end-of-life care.”
This data tells us there are opportunities for minority nurses to contribute to the specific needs that aren’t being met for the growing population of minority patients who will be seeking palliative care in the future.
Palliative nurse practitioners (NPs): Given the disparities in minority palliative care, there must be greater diversity in care leadership roles. Minority NPs can influence strategic decisions that ensure care plans are more relevant and positive for a broader range of patients.
Palliative educators: Palliative care is an emotionally and technically challenging field. Therefore, it requires skilled educators to guide professionals in developing appropriate medical, cultural, and empathic abilities. Nurses from minority backgrounds have invaluable perspectives to provide here.
Certainly, minority nurses themselves can seek the opportunities and talk to one another about them. However, it’s also important to encourage administrators and industry leaders to engage a diverse range of professionals more actively. This should involve pitching palliative care to minority students and nurses looking to shift careers. There must also be more significant financial and psychological support that makes palliative care a practical and attractive option.
Addressing the Challenges
There are clear opportunities for minority nurses in palliative care. But on a practical level, it’s important to establish what specific challenges these professionals are well-equipped to address. Firstly, this helps nurses better serve patients. But it’s also valuable information that care providers and administrators can use to pitch palliative care to minority nurses who may not have considered specializing in it.
Culturally Relevant Care
Palliative care deals with the end of life. Naturally, various cultural nuances influence this experience. One recent report outlined a significant variety of cultural differences related to the just treatment of pain during palliative care. People’s ethnicities, religious beliefs, and even generational demographics can influence how pain at the end of life is both perceived and managed.
Palliative care doesn’t always occur within hospice facilities. Nurses can also treat patients in their own homes. Patients from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds can face challenges related to the areas in which they live. Minority nurses can use community knowledge to identify issues and integrate solutions into care processes.
For instance, patients living in heavily industrialized communities may be subjected to poorer air quality. One study found that Black and Hispanic citizens bear 56% and 63% more air pollution, respectively, than they produce. Nurses with greater familiarity with these communities may better understand the signs of air pollution in the home. These may be environmental changes, like unpleasant odors, or additional medical symptoms, such as coughing and congestion. As a result, minority nurses can respond swiftly with preventions and treatments that improve palliative patients’ comfort.
Knowledge of the Practical Barriers
Let’s face it: Nobody better understands the barriers presented by cultural disparities than those subjected to them. Therefore, minority nurses can be powerful allies in improving the palliative care protocols that give hurdles to both patients and professionals.
A continuous commitment to process improvement is vital in any industry. Regularly assessing protocols reveals inefficiencies, issues with regulatory compliance, and tasks ripe for streamlining. It’s important to involve a greater diversity of nurses in mapping out and analyzing care processes. A team with a broader range of perspectives is more conducive to spotting barriers to good care that a more culturally limited one would miss. This enables a positive collaboration for redesigning processes to meet all patients’ needs.
Palliative care is one of the most challenging medical specializations. It deals with a particularly turbulent time for patients and their families and all the more reason, then, to ensure that culturally, racially, and socioeconomically diverse professionals are leading the way.
Nevertheless, addressing the growing disparities in care for those of minority identity needs immediate action. This is likely to require meaningful collaboration. Minority nurses can actively pursue palliative care and advocate for the systemic changes that make a genuine difference. However, administrators and industry leaders have a role in ensuring sufficient respect, support, and resources to make this a viable and enriching option for nurses.
Hospice and palliative care nurses work in a care giving space that is often difficult and foreign for most families, friends, and other caregivers. With a compassionate approach, experience gained from helping others who are at the end of their lives, and valuable professional knowledge, hospice and palliative care nurses become a guide for patients and their loved ones.
According to the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts, patients may choose to have hospice and palliative care when their life expectancy from a terminal illness is six months or less. Hospice care’s goal is different from the other medical care that a patient has been receiving for their illness. Shifting from a treatment-oriented approach to a comfort-based and dignity-focused care model, hospice aims to make the patients remaining days as comfortable as possible.
Hospice and palliative care nurses work with patients at the end of their lives, developing close bonds with the patient and the patient’s loved ones. Although hospice and palliative care nurses work with people during their very last days, it’s most helpful if they become involved as early as is possible. Even if a family is familiar with hospice and palliative care, each patient’s treatment, medical needs, and expectations are different. Nurses in this specialty help families plan for specific aspects of care and anticipate the patient’s needs. With this kind of planning, the patient’s quality of life is higher, families are more prepared for what will happen, and more time can be spent with personal interactions.
Nurses in this career path or who are interesting in working as a hospice nurse can find excellent career resources through the Hospice & Palliative Nurses Association, Hospice & Palliative Nurses Foundation, and the Hospice & Palliative Credentialing Center. Whether looking for a course to boost skills or knowledge or a community of other hospice and palliative care nurses, these associations are dedicated to elevating this nursing practice. Depending on your focus area (pediatrics or adult) and your background (RN or APRN), nurses may also find information about how to become certified. Certification brings a professional expertise to a nurse’s work and allows providers to offer the best possible nursing care. Through these associations, nurses can attain leadership positions, connect with fellow hospice and palliative care nurses, or even listen to (or create your own!) podcasts.
Although hospice and palliative care nurses work with patients who aren’t expected to live more than six months (although some do live much longer), many say the work they do is sad, but also filled with meaning. Because this is their focus, hospice and palliative care nurses are able to guide patients and families through the unfamiliar process. They learn how to navigate the emotional, physical, and spiritual landscape that comes with an intensely personal journey. With their expertise and knowledge, they are able to educate those who are caring for, visiting, or otherwise interacting with the patient. But this period in a person’s life also allows the nurse/patient bond to grow strong, even in a shortened time frame. This kind of rewarding work is one that offers nurses the ability to make the kind of change they hope for when they first begin their nursing careers.
In the 21st century, everyone has a personal brand; if they don’t, they want one or are told they need one. From TikTok stars to athletes, the brand seems to be the thing. However, many of us — nurses and healthcare professionals included — have no idea what that means for us.
As a nurse, do you need a brand? Do you already have one and don’t know it? If you have one, what is it? And how do you get one if you don’t have one? And if you truly don’t want one, can you skip it altogether?
What is a Brand?
When we think of brands, most of us will come up with images — specifically logos —like Nike, Coke, Colonel Sanders, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. We may also think of entertainers like Oprah, Britney Spears, or Taylor Swift — do they have brands? They live their brands at every moment.
But what is a brand? Sure, a logo is part of it, but smart people and companies think of it as a feeling generated in others. This means that the brand is born of the experience that someone has when interacting with that person, product, or company.
What’s the experience of trying on your new Nikes for the first time? How do those Nikes make you feel? And what is your relationship with the Nike brand? It may make you feel stylish, happy, powerful, athletic, strong, or just cool.
When your pre-teen interacts with Taylor Swift’s brand, the music, the image, and the merchandise have a lot to do with it, but it’s the feeling they have when interacting with Swift’s universe.
So, for a working healthcare professional, what does this mean for you?
Your Brand Has Meaning
Your personal/professional brand is made up of everything about you as a nurse and healthcare professional, including:
Your “hard” clinical skills
Your “soft” skills (e.g., communication, emotional and relational intelligence, etc.)
How patients and colleagues feel in your presence and how you impact them directly and indirectly
The ways you move in and interact with the world (your resume, cover letters, emails, conversations, relationships, and general way of being)
If your brand is about how people feel around you and your impact on the world, there’s no escaping it — you have one. You don’t have to consider it a brand — perhaps you’d prefer to think of it as your professional persona. And if that persona gets you hired, elevates you into leadership, and opens the doors of opportunity, then it may be worth paying attention to.
Identifying Your Brand or Persona
If you want to identify your brand’s core, your core beliefs and values are the first place to look. Ask yourself these questions:
What do I believe about the world around me?
What motivates me to do the work I do and be the person I am?
How do I interact with the world, and what does that say about me?
If I asked my friends, family, and colleagues to describe me, what would they say?
The Barrett Values Center offers an affordable online values assessment that provides an overview of your core values. Other organizations offer similar surveys.
You can also use career coaching, psychotherapy, mental health counseling, or conversations with a faith leader or mentor to identify your motivations and aspirations.
Finding the words to describe who you are and how you impact the world is crucial in identifying your brand. Your authentic self is the center of your brand — who is that person?
Build Your Brand
Building your brand doesn’t have to be a chore — it just takes conscious awareness. Since you’re building it through your every action, relationship, and conversation, your awareness of how you go about your daily life will help build a brand that will take you far.
To build your brand, you can:
Be conscientious in your work
Thoughtfully tend to your work relationships
Increase your emotional and relational intelligence
Sharpen your communication skills, especially listening
Consider having a positive presence on LinkedIn, the premier website where professionals network
Increase your knowledge, skill, and expertise, whether through education, certification, or independent study
Join professional organizations to network with like-minded colleagues
Find a mentor who can help you grow and evolve
Make sure your resume/CV represents you accurately
Consistently find ways to grow as a nurse and as a person
Be Yourself, and Your Brand Will Follow
If you can focus on being yourself, cultivating relationships, and growing as a professional in the ways that hold meaning for you, then your brand will largely take care of itself.
Being aware of how your actions and words affect others is paramount since how other people feel about their interactions with you and your work is one of the core aspects of your brand or professional persona.
Identifying and cultivating your brand doesn’t need to take a lot of time and work. What it truly takes is awareness, and if you can maintain that positive awareness and focus on being the best version of yourself every day, then your brand will truly represent the wonderful person and nurse you are.
Earning an advanced degree offers nurses immediate career benefits, including skills and knowledge they’ll apply to their work long before graduation. But advanced degrees, including the designation as a nurse practitioner (NP), also offer study nuances that propel careers forward and present opportunities that weren’t available before.
Nurses who pursue an NP with a master’s of nursing degree find, in particular, that the additional credential offers a level of autonomy leading to career paths that could include direct patient care, nurse leadership roles, research, business, academia, or the diverse potential in entrepreneurship.
As nurse practitioners branch out to explore entrepreneurial pursuits, new roles that blend bedside and leadership, or new research models, the beneficial impacts on public health and approaches to healthcare are widely visible.
“The NP workforce is in a constant state of growth to keep up with the rising demands of the healthcare system,” says Paula Tucker, DNP, FNP-BC, ENP-C, FAANP Clinical Associate Professor and Interim Director of the Emergency Nurse Practitioner Program Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University. “NPs frequently operate in regions where access to healthcare services is limited and providing care to vulnerable populations. This experience equips NPs with invaluable skills for providing care to diverse patient groups and addressing healthcare disparities.”
The COVID pandemic brought significant changes to the nursing practice and workforce and, in many ways, paved the way for NPs to expand their career paths. And because their experience and expertise were crucial to in-the-moment patient care scenarios, public awareness about nurse practitioners increased. “NPs have demonstrated their leadership capabilities by pioneering innovative care models that adapt to these changes,” says Tucker, who also holds a volunteer leadership position for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. “This experience in healthcare innovation is an asset for nurses contemplating diverse career avenues.”
Miranda High MSN, APRN, FNP-C, works as a Certified Mobile Research Nurse/CMRN and a nurse practitioner for PCM Trials. When she started on a nursing path, High says becoming a nurse practitioner was her goal because it would allow her to work as a provider. Working as a mobile research nurse wasn’t a path she was initially aware of. “I thought this was a role where I could potentially help people have access to treatment options that they may not otherwise have due to several factors, including traveling restrictions and financial obstacles preventing people from making follow-up visits at the site,” says High. “I felt like being able to take ‘the site’ to them allowed them the ability to be a participant in a clinical trial to not only help themselves but to be part of something bigger than just themselves. Being part of something that could potentially help so many other people in the future was what led me to discover the excitement of this role.”
Tucker says that identifying goals, developing a passion for a specialty, and gaining new skills are all effectively leveraged in diverse roles. “The key is to find one’s passion in caring for patients and allowing that passion to drive creativity, giving back to the community, and fostering innovation as a change agent in healthcare,” she says.
Alita-Geri Carter, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC CEO and founder of The Commission for Health, LLC, says she decided to become an NP when she was 14, a path that began when her younger sister spent weeks in NICU. Carter’s entrepreneurial approach allows her to provide various nursing services rooted in her passion. “Nursing is a significant part of who I am, and my nursing perspective also plays a critical role in each decision I make,” she says. “As a nurse entrepreneur, you must be able to pivot and meet the needs of your consumers to remain relevant.” Carter has shaped a career that lets her use her nursing skills to provide patient advocacy and resource coordination education, healthcare provider and school-based provider training, curriculum development, public speaking, communications and public relations consultant services, and legislative advocacy for children and youth with special healthcare needs.
For High, a mobile research nursing role brings her into the homes of subjects participating in a clinical trial, and needs follow-up data obtained as required in-home visits. “On these follow-up visits, any number of nursing tasks can be performed, including labs, EKG, obtaining information, reviewing logs, etc.,” she says. In High’s other role, as an NP with PCM, she is part of the clinical interview team conducting clinical interviews with potential NPs to discuss clinical competencies since the initial recruiters are not clinically trained. “We discuss their skills and abilities as they relate to the nurse practitioner’s scope of practice,” she says. “After the candidate interview, I help to determine if they are eligible for hire based on their clinical competencies.”
According to Tucker, the NP credential means nurses have experience with using advanced clinical skills, making complex medical decisions, and, particularly, developing effective communication with patients, which fosters teamwork and interprofessional collaboration. Both High and Carter say the NP expanded their career options. Because the NP background gave her an understanding of how to interpret the patient findings she was reporting to physicians as a registered nurse, High says being an NP has helped her expand on how she helps people and the number of kinds of people she can serve. “It gave me the opportunity to potentially be a provider to people to the underserved community who may not have access to care in any other way,” she says. “As an NP, I can help them with preventative and chronic health needs in a way that many MDs do not practice. I firmly believe that having my NP allows me to bridge the gap in healthcare disparities.”
Carter’s entrepreneurial approach relies on the NP’s experience as a provider with prescribing, diagnosing, and authorization responsibilities. “I can understand the healthcare system more intimately,” she says. “There is something to be said about the firsthand experience. I have the unique experience of working as a nursing assistant, registered nurse, nursing administrator, and nurse practitioner. It creates a well-rounded perspective of patient care, outcomes, provider scope, and access.”
Nurse practitioners can open doors they never knew existed, and that’s often a starting point to a meaningful career. “The NP path offers a gateway to a world of opportunities,” says Tucker. “Being part of a community of NPs who serve as catalysts for change within the healthcare system facilitates personal and professional growth, positively impacting the lives of patients, families, and communities. For nurses considering this path, being part of a trusted profession, the ability to adapt to various healthcare settings, experience in serving diverse populations, and contributing to innovative healthcare interventions makes it an immensely promising and fulfilling career choice.”
Military nursing is a career path that offers professional opportunities, a sense of family, and a commitment to meaningful service. Military nurses are especially proud of their profession on Veteran’s Day. Andrea C. Petrovanie-Green, MSN, NC, RN, USN, AMB-BC, CAPT(Ret) and a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) says nursing is a calling. “It is a gift to help in ‘shaping care where life happens,'” she says. “Personally I am committed to paying it forward and mentoring current and future nurses to realize their full potential.”
CAPT Petrovanie-Green was born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised by her maternal grandmother until she was 13. At that age, she and her brother immigrated to the United States to live with her mother, stepfather, and sister. But Petrovanie-Green never forgot the important lessons from her grandmother. “She was wise beyond her years,” she says. “I learned early on the importance of service and reaching back to help those less fortunate.” Her path to a military nursing career began with those embedded principles.
Petrovanie-Green says she seeks out ways to give back and is currently finishing up a medical mission in Guyana to help promote health and wellness in communities that have limited access to healthcare and resources. After that, you can find her training for the St. Jude half marathon in December and raising money to help end childhood cancer. “This is my 15th year participating and thus far I’ve raised almost $5000,” she says.
How did you find your career path to nursing and to the Navy? How did they merge? I was fortunate to attend a high school that offered a practical nursing program, and it was there my nursing career journey began. In addition, I volunteered at a local hospital as a candy striper and as soon as I was able to work, my first job was serving gourmet dinners to new parents at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on Staten Island, New York.
During high school I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a local nursing home and home health aide. Upon graduation I successfully passed the Licensed Practical Nursing exam and was promoted to Charge Nurse. While attending Wagner College, I was selected for a Navy nursing scholarship, and following graduation I was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy in 1993. I retired in May 2023 after 30 years of honorable and faithful service to our great nation.
You are a long-time member of AAACN. How does that help you as a nurse? I was encouraged to become a member of AAACN by my mentor Dr. Wanda Richards who is a retired Navy Nurse Corps Captain. At the time, I was working in orthopedic clinic and immediately began preparing for the certification exam. During my first conference, I felt a strong sense of this is exactly where I want to be. The passion, energy, and commitment to ambulatory care nursing was palpable during every session and with each encounter. The focus on health, wellness, and disease management aligned with the military health system.
As a professional nurse, becoming certified demonstrates your commitment to your specialty and more importantly your patient population. AAACN has been an unwavering supporter in helping chart the course for ambulatory care nursing in the military. I am grateful for the many opportunities such as this to serve as a voice for the future of nursing.
What nursing and professional skills are most essential in your role? As an ambulatory care nurse, developing a partnership with patients and their families is most essential for building trust and improving health and well-being. According to a Gallup poll in 2022 nursing was rated the most trusted profession for 21 years in a row! The art of listening and effective communication is critical in further enriching these relationships to achieve desired outcomes. When patients feel valued and heard they are more willing to be a an active participant in their health care and decision making. As a reminder to myself, I often reflect on Dr. Maya Angelou’s quote “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What would you like other nurses to know about a career in military nursing? Military nursing is very unique and offers a plethora of opportunities for advanced training, education, and leadership early in your career. Wearing the cloth of the nation and the opportunity to care for our fellow comrades and their families is a rewarding and life-changing experience. In addition, if traveling and living in different countries appeals to you, then serving in the military may be a good fit. To be fully transparent there are many sacrifices such as being away from family and loved ones as well as physical requirements. Coming from a small family, I especially appreciated the relationships, camaraderie, and lifelong friendships.
Why is it so essential to have a diverse representation of nurses in the military? In caring for Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and their families, it is essential to have a diverse representation of military nurses. In addition, global engagement with deployments and humanitarian missions strategically position military nurses to provide care to diverse cultures and backgrounds. Training on cultural competence focusing on nursing implications is a prerequisite with annual review and update as needed.
What do you find most exciting or most meaningful about your career and what you have accomplished? Most exciting about my career was having the opportunity to serve onboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort when we embarked on our first humanitarian mission to Latin America and the Caribbean. My experience working as a member of the medical operations team was outside my comfort zone, and I was excited for the challenge. I learned valuable skills in communication and coordination and the relationships developed with our host nations was truly humbling. The highlight of our mission was returning to my home country of Trinidad and Tobago serving as an ambassador for the United States. Reflecting back on this experience always brings a sense of grace and gratitude.
Talking about your gifts, accomplishments, and talents is essential for professionals who want to advance their careers, but nurses often tend towards the humble side of things, so it doesn’t always work in their favor.
While humility is a wonderful characteristic, when you want to get ahead as a healthcare professional, you need to be able to articulate what it is that makes you unique, and hiding your light under the proverbial bushel does you no good in the end.
So, to make your way in the world and grow your career, you need to understand the art of the humble brag.
It’s Not Boasting
When you’re in the market for a new job, requesting a promotion to nursing supervisor, or maybe writing a personal essay for your CRNA school application, the time for shyness and excessive humility has passed. While you may not be comfortable talking about yourself and tooting your own horn, it’s something you likely need to get accustomed to to get what you want.
Boasting gets a bad rap in our culture, and for good reason. When someone can’t stop talking about their new sports car, how much their new house cost, their fabulous summer on Mykonos, or their enormous trust fund, they’re boasting for no other reason but to make sure other people know how wonderful, wealthy, and wildly successful they are.
It’s apparent when someone is boasting for no other reason but the elevation of their ego, and this is not your strategic road to success. Instead, there’s another path to take, and it’s the art of the humble brag.
Embrace the Humble Brag
When you want to communicate your value as a nursing professional, how do you do that? If you’d like an interviewer to understand what makes you the stellar nurse you are, how do you frame that statement? And if you want to be promoted to nurse manager of your unit, how do you make your case that you’re the best possible choice for the position?
Enter the humble brag. The humble brag is a strategy for talking about yourself in a matter-of-fact way that states the facts. It isn’t humble to the extent that you’re embarrassed to talk about your skills, knowledge, education, and expertise; instead, it’s modest enough not to sound boastful or self-aggrandizing, yet forthright enough to mean business and get your point across without ambiguity. As a colleague once described it, it’s stating a fact about yourself with all of the emotion removed. For example:
“I’m a strong nurse leader. I have a proven track record of excellent team cohesion, with a nurse retention of 80% over the last five years. We’ve created a happy, healthy team.”
“My skills in quickly creating therapeutic rapport and trust between myself and my patients is something I’m most proud of.”
“I love working with moms and babies. I have a collection of thank you cards that grateful parents have written. I know without a doubt that I make a positive difference in their birthing experience.”
If you can say what you need to say about yourself without cringing or wanting to melt into the floor, you’re doing well. If you can verbalize what makes you so awesome simply as a fact and without shame or embarrassment, you’re on your way to humble brag success.
Practice Makes Perfect
Now it’s your turn. Consider listing 20 things you do well as a nurse and healthcare professional. What are your greatest talents? Where do your skills, knowledge, and expertise shine most readily? What are the accomplishments you’re most proud of?
Remember that when you can quantify a result or accomplishment (e.g., “nurse retention of 80% over the last five years”), numbers speak volumes. And if you can’t quantify it, then qualify it (e.g., “I know without a doubt that I make a positive difference in their birthing experience.”)
You also want to choose the content of your humble brag for your specific target audience and purpose. For a CRNA school interview, you should focus on your critical care skills and experience. Suppose it’s an interview to be on the board of a community-based non-profit that works with marginalized communities. In that case, you’ll want to discuss how you’ve successfully interfaced with or served similarly affected groups.
If you have an interview or other situation coming up where you’re going to need to talk about yourself in a positive light, this will be an excellent time to practice the art of the humble brag. It’s never too early to learn the skill of verbalizing your gifts, experience, expertise, and knowledge in a way that’s effective, forthright, unashamed, and transparent. People like confidence, so use this as an exercise in increasing your confidence in your worth.
The humble brag is a skill like any other, and with time, you can become an expert in talking about yourself positively, enthusiastically, and convincingly.