We have a responsibility to understand the history of racism and how policies may fail to eliminate the negative thoughts
As nurses and advanced practice nurses, we have a responsibility to understand the history of racism and how policies may fail to eliminate the negative thoughts and beliefs behind racism, even though laws state that racial discrimination is illegal (Mason et al., 2021, p. 466). Racism may be used to disadvantage all people of color including individuals who classify as Black or African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino. It is important for us to learn about the deeper issues of racism in order to eliminate structural racism (Mason et al., 2021, p. 467).
One of the first problems of racism mentioned by Mason et al. (2021) was the fact that although the 13th amendment did abolish slavery, it did not breakdown the underlying racist practices and beliefs that fueled racism (p. 466). As a result, further legislative rulings such as the 14th amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 deemed discriminatory practices unlawful, certain racist beliefs and unjust practices continued to ensue due to structural racism. Fast forward to today, according to Mason et al. (2021), “nursing remains mainly an institution of whiteness, although a national effort to strengthen diversity has ensued” (p. 466).
Although the importance of diversity, inclusion and equality are seen more in the workplace now, 63% of nurses still claim to have personally experienced racism in the workplace (American Nurses Association, 2022). Understanding the importance of diversity in the workplace as an older adult, I could have made more of a conscious effort to educate coworkers and other health care professionals regarding the importance of diversity by keeping an open mind toward other beliefs and practices. I believe that I have always attempted to perform my best to ensure that the people around me feel included and safe; however, I understand that certain verbiage or behaviors may be perceived in ways that I may not intend another person to interpret them. As a result, I plan to always keep an open mind and be open to criticism, in the case that a behavior or saying is perceived in a way that I had not intended.
One of the first ways in which I may be able to apply this knowledge as a future advanced practice nurse is to remember that this is an ongoing struggle and that racial issues may be deeper than surface level. Current policies, although diversity-inclusive, may only address actions and not necessarily one’s beliefs (Mason et al., 2021, p. 467). If within a leadership role, I can develop educational sessions in the future that may result in institutional changes, providing checkpoints to determine the effectiveness of these future trainings (Mason et al., 2021, p. 468). Lastly, I must constantly remind myself that structural racism is what the fight is against and enforce values that prioritize dismantling structural racism in my future workplace of choice.
American Nurses Association. (2022, July 11). Racism in nursing. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/racism-in-nursing/
Mason, D. J., Perez, A., Dickson, E. L., & McLemore, M. R. (2021). Policy & politics in nursing and health care (8th ed.). Saunders.
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