We live in a diverse country, made up of many ethnic groups, cultures, and sub-cultures — in fact, we’re at a point in time where the United States is more multi-racial and ethnically diverse than it’s ever been before.
It figures that the most essential services offered to our communities, which include nursing and healthcare, should practice diversity and inclusivity to reflect our populations.
This article will explore what diversity and inclusivity mean in the context of nursing, the challenges around these areas, and how the aim of representing all groups when it comes to nursing care can be upheld.
The area of diversity and inclusivity is a complex and fascinating one — and it’s essential for nurses of all levels to understand the issues that are involved.
So, if you’re an aspiring nurse interested in diversity and inclusivity matters, keep reading.
This article is especially valuable if you have a passion for making lasting changes to healthcare systems like nursing so that they evolve to offer more equitable and inclusive care. We’re going to explain how you can help shape the future of healthcare to achieve exactly this and deliver care that’s fit for the multi-ethnic and multicultural population of the United States.
What is the definition of diversity and inclusivity?
In simple terms, diversity refers to celebrating the differences that set us apart as individuals. Inclusivity is ensuring that everyone is included in society, regardless of their ethnic or socio-economic background or any other factor that makes up their individuality, such as gender, age, or sexuality.
In nursing, this means that all nurses have a duty to treat their patients as individuals, respecting their cultural practices and choices and ensuring that their human rights and dignity are upheld.
Within nursing practice, it can also mean that individuals of all backgrounds should have equal opportunities to practice their careers, pursue their ambitions, and work in a supported and respectful environment.
What’s more, nurses of diverse heritage should have equal access to higher education and professional development so that they can practice in leadership roles.
This means that changes are effected from the inside, making healthcare more equitable, diverse, and inclusive now and for future generations.
Why are diversity and inclusivity important in nursing?
There are two aspects of diversity and inclusivity in nursing that we’re going to discuss here — the delivery of these features within healthcare and having a diverse and inclusive workforce that represents the population it serves.
Ultimately, diversity and inclusivity are of paramount importance in nursing because, when practiced correctly, they lead to better patient care and outcomes.
Recognizing patients’ diversity and acknowledging them as part of healthcare delivery is essential to instilling confidence and providing good quality care that responds to their needs.
Nurses from diverse backgrounds naturally bring their particular perspectives to the care they deliver and operate from a personal and unique outlook. For example, they are also more likely to be aware of the disparities and inequalities in different populations.
When patients receive care from a nurse from a similar background, they are more likely to experience culturally sensitive care and feel confident and comfortable in the healthcare setting.
However, there are several challenges around diversity and inclusivity in nursing, which we’re going to look at next.
Diversity and inclusivity challenges in nursing
One of the most pressing challenges concerning diversity and inclusivity in nursing is a lack of nurses from diverse backgrounds.
According to the 2022 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, the majority of registered nurses in the United States (67.5%) are white. This figure increases to 77.4% when it comes to advanced practice registered nurses.
This demonstrates a clear need for more nurses from diverse backgrounds to have access to nursing careers and, crucially, to be able to step up to leadership roles, especially given the perspectives and value they are able to offer.
It’s recognized that when patients do not see themselves represented in healthcare, they feel excluded. At a time when they are most vulnerable, patients need to be able to relate to the nursing staff delivering their care and also feel confident that nurses understand their needs.
When nurses can communicate more effectively with the patients under their care, the patients feel an increased sense of satisfaction and confidence in that care.
There is also a need for more training on awareness of the different populations, cultures, and practices that make up the rich and varied population of the United States.
This lack of training may lead to miscommunication between healthcare providers and patients, a lack of confidence from the patient’s point of view, and, ultimately, a lower standard of patient care.
Cultural training at all levels for all has many benefits. It means nurses are more aware of patients’ individual needs and can respond to them.
In turn, this means that patients are more likely to place trust and confidence in the care they receive and the caregivers — primarily the nurses — who deliver it.
Diversity awareness also leads to a better understanding of issues that affect certain ethnic or cultural groups. These issues can range from the medical, for example, that certain diseases are more prevalent in patients of particular cultural heritage.
It could also mean that nurses who are fully versed in cultural issues understand the day-to-day practices of certain groups, for example, the sort of diet or religious practices they follow. This can make a huge difference to the experience of their patients and their confidence in accessing healthcare in the future.
Ultimately, strong nurse leadership with a sound understanding of diverse cultural issues and the desire to promote these is essential to progress healthcare in the United States and ensure it is fit for the future.
How can diversity and inclusivity be promoted in nursing?
As already mentioned, change needs to happen from the top down, with the guidance of competent, aware, and knowledgeable leaders who understand the value of a diverse and included workforce and equity of care to patients from all backgrounds.
This naturally means that more professionals from diverse cultural backgrounds should be offered the opportunity to step up to leadership positions so they can offer their unique and valuable perspectives when it comes to strategically directing the future of healthcare.
In addition to promoting leadership roles to nurses from diverse backgrounds and those who have a deep understanding of inclusivity issues, training in cultural competency should be offered to healthcare professionals at all levels.
Promoting access to senior roles and training for all should be an ongoing effort that includes continual investment, professional development, and awareness.
Individual nurses can take a proactive part in shaping better healthcare by writing their diversity and inclusivity aspirations into their career plans. This means that these areas can take a healthcare system that offers equitable, inclusive care for all groups of the community forward to the future.
Delivering patient care with diversity and inclusivity in mind
When it comes to providing healthcare with diversity and inclusivity in mind, one of the essential things to consider is that the population of the United States is already diverse growing ever more in this direction.
So that the needs of every group in the population are met, healthcare must be sensitive to diversity and inclusivity and mean that patients, whatever their background, receive the same level of care.
As the frontline deliverers of care, nurses are well-placed to deliver this equitable standard of care.
Therefore, all nurses must have a deep understanding of the issues around diversity and inclusivity.
They can achieve this through on-the-job training or by keeping up with research and cultural trends.
Nurses may also wish to aspire to more senior roles, taking an active part in leadership and taking healthcare forward.
We will set out a pathway to fulfilling this aim in the next section — and it could be easier than you think!
Enhance your leadership skills with a Master of Science in Nursing
If you’re a nurse who understands the value of diversity and inclusivity in nursing and the healthcare landscape in general and you’re passionate about promoting these areas, why not consider further study to take your career in this direction?
Nurse leaders represent the future of healthcare, which includes creating care that is equal and inclusive and caters to the needs of diverse populations.
One of the most direct routes to a leadership role in nursing is to pursue a BSN to MSN program. It will equip you with the extra skills and knowledge you need to apply for more senior positions in nursing care that allow scope for changing and influencing healthcare strategies and policy.
Of course, if you’re already working as a nurse, then you certainly have a full schedule and will most likely be wondering how you can add studying to your hectic timetable. One of the most convenient ways of furthering your career path through study is to opt for an online course. The online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Practitioner program offered by Wilkes University could be your answer.
With online self-directed study and coursework it’s a great solution for busy nurses who have a thirst for achievement and are also competent when it comes to organizing their own schedules.
The course also includes clinical placements, so you get to experience real-life scenarios to enhance your knowledge and understanding. You will be supported through these with the help of a support team who are on hand to identify placements and ensure that they meet the stringent academic standards required at this level of study.
With a strong emphasis on advanced clinical skills and improving patient outcomes through best practice, this course is ideal for anyone with a special interest in diversity and inclusivity in nursing practice. Know that you can achieve your qualification in as little as two years, which means you can get immersed in a career pathway you truly believe in in as short a time as possible!
Shaping healthcare for a better future
Having not just an awareness but a deep understanding of diversity and inclusivity issues is essential to ensure a future-proofed healthcare system that reflects our communities. As their role is at the very heart of healthcare, nurses are ideally placed to progress systems, policies, and delivery to ensure that diversity and inclusivity issues are addressed. One of the ways they can achieve this is by embarking on further study, for example, a Master of Science in Nursing program, to learn the skills and gain the confidence to enhance their practice and take on leadership roles.
Choosing an online program of study is quite simply the most convenient and efficient way to learn these competencies quickly so that changes can be made sooner rather than later. This enables nurses to wholeheartedly commit to making healthcare fairer and more accessible to all as our communities flourish and grow with diverse and multicultural populations.