Diversity and quality healthcare are inseparable and while quality is everything, diversity in nursing has become equally important in our constantly evolving environment. The diversity topic is ever-present in the media and one would have to be completely off the grid not to notice the changing demographics of the US population. The innovative roles nurses find themselves in today include the screening of patients for their social determinants of health. When nurses understand the culture and history of a patients’ community and background, trust and communication increase substantially. When caregivers can relate culturally or ethnically with their patients, those patients tend to feel more confident and communicate more effectively. Positive outcomes and patient satisfaction are enhanced. It is critical that nurse leaders are aware of these racial, cultural and social sensitivities and inequalities. Having nurse leaders who recognize and represent often underrepresented facets of their community provide an essential component of quality healthcare.
Among the benefits a more diverse nursing workforce can provide are:
- Customized, culturally sensitive care to provide appropriate models of intervention
- Better assessment and accommodation for different minority groups
- Impact policy making and resource allocation
- Enhance nursing research, education, administration and leadership
The first step in promoting nurse leader diversity is to recognize that it exists. Nursing has long been feminine in nature however, growing segments of the population are not represented, particularly women of color, men, the LGBTQ community and nurses with disabilities, despite protection by The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). A study by the Institute for Diversity and Health Equity in 2015 found that “minorities comprise only 14% of hospital board members, 11% of executive leadership positions, and 19% of first and mid-level managers. That same study said that minorities made up 32% of patients in the responding hospitals. Clearly a growth opportunity.
The second step is to develop strategies to encourage professional nurse leadership development. These include taking a closer look at these areas:
An organizational environment that supports and promotes diversity is necessary. This diversity signifies that each individual is unique and recognizes and values these differences be they race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, age, physical ability, religious or political beliefs. Diversity encourages self-awareness and respect for all. Organizations that have an inclusive environment, where collaboration, flexibility and fairness are valued and promoted are perfect breeding grounds for the next generation of representational nurse leadership.
Just how does your organization brand diversity? Your brand is incomplete without inclusion. Inclusion is the active, intentional and out-reaching engagement with all populations. Positive and forward-thinking brand strategies need to be focused on recruitment, retention, development and promotion of these multi-level talent pools. Your brand should reflect this positive, inclusive image in the minds of your staff, community, management and executive healthcare leaders. (https://www.journals.lww.com/naqjournal/Citation/1013/0700/Advancing_Diversity_Leadership_in_Health_Care.14.aspx)
Healthcare Leadership Mentoring
Nurses and other professional healthcare staff are no different from the rest of the population. People look to others they are similar to for inspiration, encouragement, motivation and assistance. This is customarily informal in nature. Organization mentoring and bridging-the-gap programs are designed to be proactive and are extremely beneficial in attracting, training, retaining and advancing nurses of all backgrounds.
Tamara Bland, Ed. D, MSN, RN, Resurrection University College of Nursing noted a lack of black women in leadership roles when she went to conferences. In fact, when she started working in higher education, she was the lone person of color at her institution. These observations became the basis for her doctoral research. She conducted a study entitled “Factors the Impact Black Nurses Leadership Opportunities in Higher Education”. One of her findings was that black women wanted to pursue higher degrees but either could not or would not go into debt to attain this higher degree. (https://www.healthleaders.com/nursing/what-keeps-black-women-nurses-out-leadership-roles) Mentoring is only one avenue of help in locating available financial resources. Progressive healthcare organizations could be another.
Nursing schools have put forth a substantial effort to promote and provide educational opportunities for minority groups. They have worked hard at creating an inclusive environment that fosters recruitment, retention and graduation of these populations. However, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that only 30-33% of nursing students were comprised of racial or ethnic minority groups and only 12 to 15% were male. The variables come from enrollment in different education levels. (https://www.rwjf.org) Nursing education could partner with healthcare organizations, high school systems and community groups to recruit and advance nursing students from all backgrounds to fill the leadership pipeline from the very beginning.
Healthcare Education Faculty
Minority populations are significantly underrepresented in academic settings. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2015 noted that only 12.5% of full-time faculty in nursing education came from minority backgrounds and men accounted for less than 6% of full-time faculty. (https://www.aacnnursing.org) The opportunity exists to create an academic environment where diverse healthcare faculty and staff can flourish. This also serves as a tremendous breeding ground for mentoring and donors to expand funding for these populations.
Economic support, academic support and professional and organizational opportunities are cornerstones to developing, encouraging and promoting diversity in nurse leadership. Diversity encourages self-awareness and respect for all, embracing and celebrating the richness of all individuals. It encompasses organizational, institutional and system-wide behaviors for the future in nursing, nursing education and healthcare as a whole.
NHS Solutions embraces diversity within both its corporate staff and with our Interim Nurse Leaders in the field. Contact us to discuss your next career move about the opportunities NHS Solutions has now or to prepare for the future. NHS Solutions has developed a concierge style service package of benefits, on-boarding process and ongoing 24/7 field support once our nurse leaders are on the job.