Despite roots stretching far back into history, nursing has only been a recognized profession for a little more than a century. While the nursing industry has made great strides since that time, it primarily remains the realm of white females. Just over 9% of registered nurses (RNs) are male, and minorities only make up about 20% of the nation’s total number of RNs.
Nursing’s lack of diversity is problematic on its own, and minority nurses may find that the diversity issue is compounded when the time comes for a career change. So what happens when seasoned nurses are ready to expand their employment horizons? Some LPNs and RNs may choose to tread the path of primary care, re-enrolling in medical school and working towards a doctorate. For others, the realm of human resources may be an attractive option.
Individuals from historically underrepresented groups are a great choice for roles within health care-related human resources management and administration. That’s because minorities are more likely to bring the topics of diversity and inclusion to center stage. And when the importance of diversity is emphasized at the managerial level, everyone benefits, from patients to providers and educators.
Discrimination in the Health Care Industry
As most people of color are well aware, discrimination is still a major social issue in 2020. And this discrimination can happen everywhere, from social settings to the workplace and beyond. Although federal law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, and disability, more diversity is needed within the health care industry, especially in the field of nursing.
That’s because nurses are essentially the foundation of quality care and healing. Further, they act as liaisons to primary care physicians and specialists, often serving as the voices of their patients. Patients from all walks of life deserve to feel as though they’re represented within the field of nursing.
By fostering a more inclusive environment, human resource managers in hospitals and clinics may be able to bridge the gaps, at least where health care for minority groups is concerned. And make no mistake, there is a glaring disparity among minority populations. According to a 2014 study published in Public Health Reports, “diabetes care, maternal and child health care, adverse events, cancer screening, and access to care are just a few examples in which persistent disparities exist for minority and low-income populations.”
Human Resources, Inclusion, and Diversity
So how does human resources fit into the equation? At their core, nursing and human resource management have a lot in common. After all, providing compassionate interactions with a diverse group of individuals is a major component of both career paths. Yet where nurses typically only deal with patients and their immediate colleagues on a daily basis, HR managers must also deal with the business side of health care as well.
For example, health care HR managers must address industry trends and set the standards for ethical practices within their facility. They may oversee digital recruitment and hiring, while also keeping patient needs at the forefront of their mind and even addressing legal situations that may arise. It’s a multifaceted job that requires knowledge, patience, and discipline as well as compassion.
A nurse who is interested in becoming an HR manager in health care should prepare to be challenged. You’ll need plenty of experience under your belt, as well as strong communication, organization, and computer skills. To get an edge over the competition, you may also want to consider pursuing an advanced degree in health administration.
Prospective HR professionals should also take note that speed and accuracy are paramount to the job, as they are in the field of nursing. Computer skills are a vital component of the job, and HR managers should have a strong grasp of technology and tools such as open-source software that allows you to quickly sign forms online, from invoices to payroll and hiring documents. Even in our digital age, most health care facilities leave a significant paper trail.
Unfortunately, sometimes that paperwork can stem from an unpleasant situation, such as legal action against your health care facility. Even when great care is taken to ensure that the most vigilant professionals are employed at a facility, that fact doesn’t always guarantee a safe and inclusive work environment. Thus, even the best HR managers may end up on the receiving end of a workers’ compensation claim.
While most workers’ compensation claims involve physical injuries, a hostile work environment could indeed be grounds for a lawsuit, especially if management was aware of the problem. And although workplace stress isn’t grounds for a workers’ comp claim, work-related trauma injuries may be. If the discrimination was serious enough to be deemed traumatic, the injured worker may indeed be entitled to compensation. As an HR manager, it’s your duty to help foster a more inclusive work environment where discrimination has no place.
This becomes even more important when you yourself are one of the very minorities who is often overlooked for leadership positions such as HR management. Nursing leadership means making connections with your staff, one of the best ways to prevent discriminatory practices is by modeling inclusion and diversity in your workplace. Do this in your hiring practices, in your relationships with your employees, in your interactions with clients; it will trickle down.
Advocating for diversity is extremely important when it comes to social justice, but it can be a fine line to tread in the workplace. Within the health care industry, minorities should try to take on leadership roles, such as in management and HR, in order to help build a more inclusive environment where patients and providers alike can feel safe, respected, and represented.
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