With a recent and horrifying uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans, May’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is especially timely to help educate people and find another opportunity to eliminate the systemic racism that leads to such harmful incidents.

According to the Center for Study of Hate & Extremism, the rate of anti-Asian hate crimes rose 149 percent in 2020 alone and continues to rise in 2021. The long-lasting implications for being a target of a hate crime or even part of a larger group that is being targeted are troublesome. Whether you’ve experienced AAPI racism personally or seen it happen to colleagues, family, or friends, the impact to mental health and personal security is only the beginning of the potential detrimental effects.

As a nurse, you may treat patients who have been hurt or threatened in a hate crime. You may treat people who direct hate and threats at you or someone in your care. The concern and fear can be paralyzing, and making sure your colleagues and supervisors are aware of incidents can help your organization track them.

One of the best ways to help allay fear, confusion, and concern is to use resources and information. If your patients are concerned and are looking for guidance, many excellent organizations are devoted to helping stop AAPI hate. You’ll find resources through the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), or Stop AAPI Hate.

And it’s helpful to have the government recognize the problem and take active steps to mitigate hate crimes. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, recently signed into law by President Joe Biden, is designed to make reporting hate crimes easier through more extensive public outreach, straightforward reporting and resources available  in multiple languages, and community education opportunities to reduce crime.

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AAPI nurses can find a professional organization such as the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, Inc., that offers resources and support as well. You can check out their past newsletters to find out about what nurses across the country are working on, topics of concern or interest, and news about conferences or professional development opportunities. As many minority nurses find excellent networking opportunities though professional organizations dedicated to their identity, belonging to AAPINA can also help you learn methods to combat racism that other nurses around the country have had success with.

And if you’re a nursing student, look into any AAPINA chapters in your school or in nearby schools. Vanderbilt University has an AAPINA student nurses chapter as does the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. If your school doesn’t have a chapter, reach out to an existing chapter and find out about them. Ask how they formed, what helps them thrive as a student group, and what their membership finds most valuable.

Throughout the healthcare industry, organizations are collaborating to help fight racism and hate crimes. The National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing will tackle the issue in a broad approach with multiple organizations. With large and small efforts, progress will be made and honoring Asian Pacific American Heritage Month offers more opportunities for action.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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