One year ago, I would have taken any opportunity to write, advise, or lecture on the inequalities of being a black nurse in health care. I could’ve complied a novel of complaints, stories, examples, and tears from the countless nurses that have described horrific scenarios of discrimination and bias feelings of being undervalued and overlooked for coveted leadership roles. Today, my paradigm has shifted and my perception of reality has moved from fractured to healed. How did this happen? Am I drunk on the liquor of white America, am I not “woke”? Have I forsaken my people and joined the other side? No. I’m still very much an advocate for equality in health care.

Here’s where I’m at: there are many individuals who subscribe to a methodical and intentional belittling of those who do not look like them and they come in every shade, even black. I may have heard a metaphorical gasp, but the truth is we focus so much of our attention on those individuals, working to receive their approval, waiting for a nod, anticipating some sort of compassionate act to help us succeed. Here’s the truth. They are not enlightened and they don’t care and until they plan to become self-aware their behaviors actions will never change. They are disconnected from the pillars of nursing compassion, empathy, human connection, and healing. Create a path to success using your knowledge and passion. Channel your energy and focus on yourself.

I have countless stories of inequality, being undervalued, and overlooked, feeling inadequate, not good enough, not included. Many of my colleagues have the same stories, we have collected so many stories that we could build a library of hate, but why? Why waste energy on what’s unimportant? Why not channel that energy and create something new, innovative, and intentionally inclusive? Achieve the highest degrees or certifications possible, build a nurse framework that cannot be torn down, that cannot be destroyed, that lasts lifetimes. Not just something for the moment.

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Here’s a truth: my move to corporate America opened my eyes to a reality. Nobody, I mean nobody eats for free. It’s time for Black America to open its eyes to the truth and learn the transparency of human behaviors. What you fear is created in your mind, so change the narrative. Move your mind to a positive paradigm and see the opportunities in every task that you are asked to complete, instead of complaining why not focus on self-awareness and success. Yes. It’s OK to be selfish. Don’t just complete an objective. Execute it. Put all your hurt and pain in your work and watch how your outcome changes. Change how you eat, what you eat, include exercise, meditation, and whatever it takes to move you to a healed space. We have over 400 years of shackles to break, take pride in breaking your own chains and contribute to the evolution of history. Don’t just read the news; become the news.

Alisha Cornell, DNP, MSN, RN
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