How Diversity in Nursing Helps Reduce Health Disparities

America is becoming increasingly diverse, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of Americans are expected to identify with a minority group by 2044. However, a recent survey suggested that only about 20% of registered nurses identified as from a racial or ethnic minority. This disparity is even greater when looking at gender. While approximately 49% of the population is male, men only represented 11% of registered nurses1.
And while this may not seem like an immediate cause for concern for hiring managers who are doing their best to address staffing issues caused by nursing shortages, the impact on care is significant in that “certain racial and ethnic minorities, for example, have a higher risk of obesity and complications from diabetes. The belief is that a more diverse nursing workforce representing variations in gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and social status will improve outcomes for patients from diverse backgrounds”1. Because of this, it is essential that nurse populations change in accordance with national demographics in order to provide the highest level of care possible for all patient populations.
How can diversity help impact results within my organization?

  • Improve patient engagement through positive interactions with clinicians from similar backgrounds or who speak the same language if they are not native English speakers.
  • Increased communication as clinicians who share similar backgrounds/languages as their patients are uniquely positioned to help understand what the barriers to health literacy or health management might be.
  • Enhance clinical outcomes through understanding of diverse patient backgrounds Because of this, they are better able to adapt care plans to match the patient in a way that best sets them up for success. For example, one study found that Hispanic nurses who lived in communities with higher rates of obesity, were able to educate people in those communities about how to solve some of the common problems they faced by modifying their food options to be healthier in a way that still fit the culture of the community1.

If there is a nursing shortage, how do we promote diverse hiring practices?

  • Post position listings on multilingual job boards to increase visibility. This can in turn improve care outcomes in that “non-English speaking patients experience better interpersonal care, greater medical comprehension and greater likelihood of keeping follow-up appointments when they see a practitioner who speaks their language”1.
  • Attend hiring events in communities that reflect your organization’s patient populations in order to expand your applicant pool. This too can help create greater awareness about your organization outside of the job fairs your organization already participates in.
  • Invest in mentorship programs for minority nursing students. Unlike clinical mentors, mentors for nursing students are a great way to offer support throughout nursing school as many struggle to balance school, exams, and sometimes another job elsewhere. One pilot program showed that of 90 mentee nursing students, all of those who worked with a mentor and graduated went on to pass the NCLEX1.

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