Nursing diversity and inclusion have become a top priority for healthcare organizations. To provide the best possible care for your patients, ideally, nurses would come from all walks of life and represent the communities they serve.
The Benefits of Nursing Diversity for Organizations
Nursing diversity and inclusion can benefit your healthcare organization in several ways. Having a diverse and inclusive nursing staff can help improve patient care, communication and collaboration. In addition, organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion are more likely to attract top talent and be viewed as attractive places to work. By understanding the benefits of diversity and inclusion, healthcare recruiting can help better attract nurses from diverse backgrounds. Nurse leaders can also create a more welcoming environment for all nurses in their organization. Finally, nurses can also play an active role in promoting diversity and inclusion in the nursing profession and nursing jobs.
Recruitment Tips for Successful Nursing Diversity and Inclusion
As the nursing profession becomes increasingly diverse, recruiters can take steps to ensure they are making hires that reflect this diversity. Here are some tips that can increase nurse recruiting from a variety of backgrounds:
Make sure your job descriptions and advertisements are inclusive and welcoming to all potential candidates.
Utilize social media and other online platforms to reach out to potential candidates from underrepresented groups.
Attend career fairs and events that focus on diversity in nursing.
Develop relationships with nursing schools and programs that strongly focus on diversity.
Be conscious of any personal biases and make an effort to put all candidates on an equal footing when conducting interviews.
Nursing is a field that is rich in diversity. Nurses come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and experiences. However, this diversity can also be a challenge, as nurses may face more significant difficulties adapting to new environments and cultures. As a result, it is essential to consider how you can best support nurses from diverse backgrounds to assure their retention in the profession. Following these recruiting tips could help the nursing staff to be as diverse and inclusive as possible, which, in turn, can produce improved patient outcomes.
Strategies to Improve Nurse Retention Among Diverse Nurses
Nursing is a demanding and challenging profession. Nurses are often the front line of care in many healthcare settings, and they play a vital role in patient care and outcomes. Nursing is also a diverse profession, with nurses coming from various backgrounds and cultures. As the healthcare landscape evolves, hospitals and other healthcare employers will need to focus on strategies to improve nurse retention among diverse nurses.
One way you may improve nurse retention among diverse nurses is to create a supportive and inclusive work environment. This practice can help ensure career development and growth opportunities and implement policies and approaches that foster a sense of belonging.
Fostering a Welcoming and Diverse Environment for All Nurses
Studies have shown that healthcare organizations are at the most significant risk of employees leaving if they do not perceive the workplace as diverse and equal. Additionally, many employees and leaders who are disabled choose not to share their disability in the workplace. Furthermore, roughly three-quarters feel the need to mask their differences while working.
Nurse leaders can create a more welcoming environment for all nurses when they understand the benefits of diversity and inclusion. Healthcare recruiters can also attract top talent when they promote diversity and inclusion in their organizations. Helping healthcare professionals for over 70 years, Springer Publishing understands the importance of nursing diversity. Learn more about our award-winning resources written by noted scholars and practitioners, which span over 20 nursing subject areas to support every facet of the profession.
Nurses in the United States have a unique privilege in being the healthcare providers for one of the most diverse populations in the world. Our country is home to millions of people coming from various racial groups, religious affiliations, and sexual orientation. Promoting the well-being of these individuals require more than just a uniform set of standards. They require a dynamic nursing practice that emphasizes not just sensitivity, but more importantly, responsiveness to cultural differences.
Being educated and sensitive to differences among individuals is a crucial trait for any nurse. However, it is not enough to simply be aware of the nuances between one person and another. Nurses must take a step further and adapt their practice to these differences. Nurses are taught from their earliest days in nursing school to individualize their plan of care. This principle applies not just to how they tailor their approach to the physiological aspects of a patient’s condition, but other factors that affect their patients’ entire being, including their cultural background and preferences. Doing so creates a healthcare system that not only pays respect to the uniqueness of American society, but also helps foster a culture in which diversity becomes an inseparable part of our national identity. In other words, a culturally responsive healthcare system treats diversity as more than just novelty, but as something that our society simply cannot do without.
There are countless ways by which nurses can become advocates for a more culturally responsive healthcare system. Some actions can be done on a larger scale, while some can be done within the confines of one’s practice setting. Here are a few ideas:
1. Ask and listen.
Nurses have been educated to some degree on the differences between various cultural groups. This knowledge is indispensable, but certainly not comprehensive. There is simply no way to ascertain each patient’s cultural preferences without talking to individual patients. Some practice settings may allow more time to get to know patients and even their families, while other settings are fast paced. Nevertheless, assessing for cultural preferences should be codified into every nurse’s assessment in the same way that routine examination of the entire body is considered part of standard practice. Taking the time to ask and to listen to patients’ cultural preferences creates a positive experience for patients and their families at a time when they are vulnerable.
2. Be cognizant of workplace practices that are not culturally responsive.
In a typical work setting, it is not uncommon to have certain entrenched practices or policies that have become so prevalent no one seems to question or even notice them anymore. They are not necessarily wrong, but it may be worth revisiting how these actions may be affecting a unit, agency, or health care setting’s ability to respond to the culturally diverse needs of their population. Making the effort to look at one’s workplace from a fresh perspective may bring to light opportunities for improvement.
3. Get involved with committees or associations.
Larger healthcare institutions, like hospitals, have committees in which nurses can participate and help shape policies in their workplace. Smaller facilities may have a less formal structure but may have protocols in place for nurses to take on advocacy roles. On a broader scale, there are also various nursing organizations, such as the American Nurses Association, that provide avenues for nurses to make their voices heard in local, state, and federal governments. Regardless of how nurses choose to speak up, nurses can make a significant impact simply by choosing to be the voice for cultural responsiveness.
4. Run for office.
Nurses have been consistently named as one of the most trusted professions in the United States. At a time when political polarization and cynicism is so rampant, Americans may be willing to find common ground with leaders that have a track record of integrity and reliability. Nurses fit that bill and can most definitely leverage the public trust to create a more robust healthcare system that celebrates and protects the rights of various cultural groups on a much wider scale. Running for office may be an overwhelming endeavor, but it is certainly something nurses can do.
American society will continue to evolve in ways that will create a more diverse population. This is an inevitable fact, and many industries will need to adapt now. However, the healthcare sector is special in that it does not deal with commodities, but lives. Lives that are vulnerable. Lives that are unique and have specialized sets of needs. Nurses have always served as an integral part of the healthcare workforce, and they can and must continue to do so by taking the lead in create a more culturally responsive healthcare system.
While enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at my PWI (predominantly white institution), I expected to be in the minority. It’s not uncommon to see less minorities in PWIs, especially in graduate level education. My hope was that the workforce would be a little different. Why? In the workforce there are many people from all over who are transplanted in Greenville, North Carolina, my small college town. I live in a place that would not be exactly be hailed as a black Mecca, but it is still somewhat diverse. The population of my county is roughly 55% White, 34% Black , and 6% Hispanic. I was mistaken. It seems the few minorities that were in my town moved away shortly after graduating from the university, or garnering a few years experience in their field.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many people actually assumed that once I graduated I would move to somewhere like Charlotte, or Atlanta. So, as I set out for employment I accepted that there may not be many colleagues that looked like me. What I did not expect was for there to be none.
I happen to work within an organization that I feel supports diversity, and I have a supervisor who is very inclusive and appreciative of all cultures. What I could not help but wonder was “Am I the ‘twofer’?”
A few years ago, I was watching a spinoff movie called ‘What Women Want’ starring the amazing Taraji P. Henson. She plays a spunky black female sports agent. In this particular scene, she was discussing her value to the team with her boss, when he hinted that she was only employed at the company because of her ethnicity and gender. I remember her proclaiming “I am not your twofer!” That struck a chord with me. ‘Twofer’ would imply that you check the box for racial inclusion and gender inclusion in a predominantly homologous role.
Fast forward to today’s newly overt recognition of what many minorities already knew, that inclusivity matters. Duh?! One can’t help to wonder whether we are being offered new roles based off merit and education or off the sudden need for companies to show that they support diversity. Am I more likely to get a job now because I am a black Nurse Practitioner or because I am the right fit? For years, the running joke in the Black community used to be name your kid something simple so that when they submit a job application, someone will not overlook them due to their ‘ethnic’ name. This may be reverse now. Are we sought after because our names indicate clues into our race when we submit applications?
Here is the kicker, being the ‘twofer’ isn’t always a bad thing. Why? Well, a seat at the table allows you to pave the way for more chairs later. This is how we change the narrative. This changes the work place from being a secondary ‘PWI’. This means we don’t all flock to the placers that are more culturally diverse, we create that space where we are so that our whole nation becomes culturally diverse.
So, if the only way to get in the door is to be let in from checking the boxes, it is our responsibility to ensure that we remain at the table because we actually have the education, experience, and expertise to stay there and make it a better place because of us. Or better yet, remember the words relayed to Tara Jaye Frank by the late Dr. Maya Angelou, “You don’t have to give up your seat to anyone. You are just as worthy of that seat as he is, and you have every right to sit proudly in it.”
As a minority nurse, you know diversity and inclusion means much more than what the people in your organization look like and where they have come from.
Diversity and inclusion is absolutely focused on creating a nursing workforce that more closely mirrors the different populations in a given area. But diversity and inclusion also means more because the culture of a workplace needs to feel comfortable to the people who work there.
If you’re a nursing leader you hold a responsibility for hiring the right people, and also for creating an environment where employees feel like they can be their authentic selves. When employees feel like they are able to bring the things that make them different to work—whether that’s their affinity for studying languages or for making cat toys for shelters or for four-wheeling in their spare time—it’s up to the organization to honor what they bring to your organization.
What can you do to make sure your working environment is inclusive to all your employees?
Find the Right People
Make hiring high-quality workers who are similar to the populations you serve a priority. The more diversity you have, the more perspectives you’ll have. That only results in better care for your patients.
Understand the Concerns
Assess the culture of your workplace with open forums and anonymous comment boxes and bring your talent management team in on the results. Ask your employees for feedback about what feels right and what makes the workplace uncomfortable or unproductive for them.
Listen and Respond
Your team wants to be heard. They have voices and experiences that can make your unit stronger, more efficient, more effective, and more in tune to the needs of your patients. Make sure what they say matters, so listen to their concerns and work with them to develop meaningful solutions.
Keep It in the Open
Whatever changes you make probably won’t make everyone happy, but they should address an identified problem that will move your organization toward its goal of inclusivity. Each solution might look different. Sometimes, education about how different cultures make healthcare decisions will dispel misunderstandings. Sometimes it might be a direct policy that will address blatant mircroaggressions against people on your team. Many times, it is an open and honest celebration of they differences among your team members that will make them feel like they have found a place where they can flourish.
Look at the Outcome
In the end, a diverse workforce is essential and will meet many or your organization’s goals. But being an inclusive team is what makes employees committed to where they work and focused on the job at hand.
The outcome is better patient care, longer employee retention, an increased reputation as a fair employer in the community and the industry, and nurses who become ambassadors for your organization.
Earlier this fall, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing named Dr. Rolanda Johnson, PhD, MSN, RN as the new Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion. Johnson, who is also the assistant dean for academics and associate professor of nursing, has replaced Assistant Professor Jana Lauderdale, who returned to her faculty role. Johnson is continuing to shape and foster VUSN’s environment of inclusivity. We spoke with Dr. Johnson to learn more about her experience and her goals for VUSN.
Dr. Rolanda Johnson
What has been your career path so far and how has it led you to your current role as assistant dean of diversity and inclusion?
My desire to work as a health care professional began when I was elementary age. As an 11th grader, I decided to attend nursing school. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Tuskegee University in 1985. Those were very formative years of training and education when I gained a wide range of clinical experiences with diverse populations. After graduating from Tuskegee University, I worked in a community hospital in Montgomery, AL, at Fairview Medical Center where I was exposed to people who I now know had limited access to health care. At Fairview Medical Center, I witnessed a sense of family among employees who were dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care to all that were in need with genuine caring attitude. I later began employment at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, AL, working in numerous roles including that of nurse educator and clinical nurse specialist. During this time, I obtained a Master of Science in Nursing from Troy State University located in Troy, AL. Working as a nurse educator, I developed a desire to have a greater impact on African American health. Shortly, thereafter I began doctoral studies at Vanderbilt University and later obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy in Nursing Science degree. I have worked in numerous roles of nursing including clinician, educator, researcher and administrator, which led to my current position.
How has your professional background influenced your passion for diversity and inclusion?
Throughout my education trajectory, I have always been keenly aware of the health disparities and inequities some groups of individuals face. I am employed in Nashville while residing and working with my husband in an extremely underserved rural county in Mississippi. The social determinates of health naturally impact the health status of many. Who you are, where you live and what you have, sadly, monumentally impacts the quality of care one receives and access to health. As an educator, I work with students across the spectrum who are often impacted by these factors either individually or through family and friends. For me, all of these experiences have translated to my desire to make a difference in the lives of those that are often overlooked and to help others see the integration of all facets that impact the lives of our students and their performance.
Where did your passion for diversity and inclusion in the nursing field begin?
My passion for diversity and inclusion began during my studies at Tuskegee University. Those were very formative years of training and education. The wide range of clinical experiences with populations across the socioeconomic spectrum and from rural Tuskegee, AL, to metropolitan Atlanta, GA, opened my eyes to the varying degrees of heath care and access for different groups of people. Naturally, at that time I could only assess health disparities from my early developmental lens but these experiences have proven to be instrumental in guiding my nursing career.
For the past 20 years, I have resided in Macon, MS, a low-income, rural community, and have been employed approximately 300 miles away in metropolitan Nashville, TN. This has afforded me the opportunity to observe health care delivery cycles and the degree of effectiveness across diverse populations including associated gaps and health disparities. This phenomenon has fueled my passion to educate advanced practice nurses who will be equipped to fill these gaps and better meet the health care needs of all populations. The key to have advanced practice nurses who can deliver quality culturally sensitive health care.
How do you define diversity and inclusion at Vanderbilt?
Within VUSN, our core belief is that all students, staff and faculty regardless of our differences should feel included and equitable. This is reflected in the VUSN diversity and inclusivity statement, which states at VUSN “we are intentional about and assume accountability for fostering advancement and respect for equity, diversity and inclusion for all students, faculty and staff.” The full statement can be found on the VUSN website.
What are you most excited about with your new position?
The most important part of my new role is the possibility of enhancing the culture climate within VUSN and creating a path for continued improvement for years to come. I am humbled to be a part of this endless journey. I hope to leave an indelible imprint of creating a difference in this area within VUSN.
What strategies do you feel will have the most positive impact on the Vanderbilt Nursing community?
The umbrella strategy is to transform the level of diversity and inclusion within VUSN by minimizing bias across our core areas of academics, faculty practice, research and informatics among faculty, staff and students. Additional strategies will be to improve the cultural climate of VUSN for all students, faculty and staff and to increase the diversity representation among faculty, staff and students.
What are the biggest challenges that you will face in your new role?
The biggest challenge is to keep the diversity and inclusion momentum moving forward within VUSN. Within any organization, change is often difficult and once that change has occurred, it is so easy to be complacent with past accomplishments. The test is to bask in accomplishments for the moment and then move forward to the next challenge and goal.
What diversity goals do you have for yourself and Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing?
My goal is to pursue a high level of excellence in health care by finding creative ways to deliver this level of care to underserved populations. From a diversity and inclusive view, I desire to minimize bias, improve the cultural climate and increase diversity representation in faculty, staff and students within VUSN.