In the 21st century, the U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse. One indicator of this development is the U.S. Census Bureau’s “diversity index,” which measures the chance that two randomly selected people will be from different racial or ethnic groups. According to the Census Bureau, the diversity index grew from 54.9% in 2010 to 61.1% in 2020.
The growing diversity of the population brings immense opportunity to enhance many aspects of society, and healthcare is no exception. Ensuring equity in healthcare is tremendously important in promoting positive health outcomes. Diversity in nursing is particularly critical because of the close relationships that nurses build with their patients and the sensitive nature of the healthcare that nurses provide. A nursing workforce that reflects the population it serves can only strengthen healthcare.
As a current or aspiring nurse considering a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, you may be particularly interested in knowing the importance and benefits of diversity and nursing, as well as related statistics and initiatives. While there have been improvements in nursing diversity over the past few decades, there are still many more that can be made.
Why is diversity important in healthcare?
As patient populations become increasingly diverse, there’s a growing need for all healthcare professionals to treat and collaborate with patients from a culturally sensitive perspective.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has made a number of important points about the critical role of diversity in nursing:
- There is a direct connection between a diverse nursing workforce and nurses’ ability to provide culturally competent, quality healthcare.
- A diverse nursing staff can enable nurses to learn from one another and build a greater understanding of others’ backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences. This understanding can inform and strengthen the quality of the healthcare that nurses provide.
- Improving the diversity of the nursing workforce can help alleviate health inequities in historically underserved communities and enable better access to care.
In addition, the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice has noted that:
- Nurses who are members of minority groups or disadvantaged populations are more likely to advocate for services and programs in their communities because they are aware of the community’s needs.
- When nurses are members of the populations they serve, they are better able to improve communication and trust among minority groups. They may also be more likely to work in resource-poor communities facing a shortage of healthcare professionals, which can improve access to healthcare.
Diversity in Nursing Can Help Improve Patient Outcomes
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a lack of diversity in the healthcare workforce is one factor that has contributed to poorer health and higher mortality rates among minority groups. Some patients feel more comfortable when their healthcare providers share their ethnicity, race, and language. Improving nursing diversity strengthens the trust between patients and nurses, which can lead to patients more strongly adhering to nurses’ recommendations.
A 2020 Nursing Forum article on the barriers to career advancement that African American nurses face highlighted the benefits of minority nurses’ ascending to executive roles in senior leadership. Specifically, representation at the executive level can give minority nurses the ability to influence the overall structure of the healthcare environment to reduce health disparities and improve patient outcomes.
How Diversity in Nursing Helps the Nursing Workforce
As a 2021 American Nurse report notes, a lack of nursing diversity can lead some nurses to feel isolated; it also can lead to misunderstanding and weaken a sense of community among nurses. It’s important for nurses of all races and ethnicities to have role models among nursing school faculty members, mentors who can demonstrate how they interact with patients and other medical professionals, and models of researchers who study underserved populations.
The effects of racism in the nursing workforce are profound. According to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Professional Nursing, minority nurses reported leaving employment because of racism they had experienced. They also reported that:
- They had to work for longer periods of time before being promoted.
- They felt undervalued and silenced.
- Their employers dismissed their contributions.
- They felt powerless in decision-making processes.
The study emphasized the importance of nurse educators’ role in modeling behavior and practice that new nurses can replicate as they begin their careers.
Where Does Diversity in Nursing Stand Now?
It can be informative to compare the four most represented ethnicities within the U.S. population with the three most represented ethnicities among those who work in nursing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2020 census determined that the overall U.S. population was:
- White and non-Hispanic: 57.8% (down from 63.7% in 2010)
- Hispanic or Latinx: 18.7% (up from 16.3% in 2010)
- Black or African American and non-Hispanic: 12.1% (down from 12.2% in 2010)
- Asian: 5.9% (up from 4.7% in 2010)
Statistics regarding nurse ethnicity show that ethnicity among nurses does not yet align with the ethnicity in the U.S. population, although the numbers are slowly shifting in some categories. According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey published by the Journal of Nursing Regulation, the four most represented ethnicities among registered nurses were:
- White and non-Hispanic: 80.6% (down from 80.8% in 2017)
- Asian: 7.2% (down from 7.5% in 2017)
- Black or African American and non-Hispanic: 6.7% (up from 6.2% in 2017)
- Hispanic or Latinx: 5.6% (up from 3.6% in 2015 and 5.3% in 2017)
Among licensed practical nurses/licensed vocational nurses, the four most represented ethnicities were:
- White and non-Hispanic: 69.5% (down from 71.4% in 2017)
- Black or African American and non-Hispanic: 17.2% (down from 18.5% in 2017)
- Hispanic or Latinx: 10% (up from 6.4% in 2015 and 7.4% in 2017)
- Asian: 5% (up from 2.6% in 2017)
In addition to representation in the nursing workforce, it’s interesting to note the ethnicity of individuals who enroll in nursing educational programs. These numbers show that educational programs are fueling the growth of diversity in the nursing field, including advanced degree programs. According to the AACN, in 2020:
- Enrollment in nursing bachelor’s degree programs was 62.1% white and 37.9% minority, compared to 72.3% and 27.7% in 2011.
- Enrollment in nursing master’s degree programs was 62.9% white and 37.1% minority, compared to 73.9% and 26.6% in 2011.
- Enrollment in nursing doctorate-level programs was 62.8% white and 37.2% minority, compared to 78% and 22% in 2011.
Diversity in the nursing profession can provide much-needed sensitivity and understanding to the patient experience. In fact, the unique contributions of nurses from various backgrounds allows them to help advance the healthcare process by addressing patients in their native language or identifying cultural and religious sensitivities without unnecessary delay.
What Efforts Are in Place to Increase Diversity in Nursing?
In recent years, there have been ongoing efforts across various nursing programs to attract students from different backgrounds.
Campaign for Action, an organization founded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the AARP Foundation, and AARP, works to help people live healthier and longer lives by bolstering the power of nursing. One of the organization’s aims is to promote policies, programs, and best practices to ensure diversity in the nursing ranks. It also works to promote health equity and address systemic and institutional racism.
Another organization, Exceptional Nurse, strives to provide resources for nurses and nursing students with disabilities — who can often be overlooked when discussing diversity in the nursing profession. Breaking down gender stereotypes may be critical to drawing more men into the nursing workforce. There are dedicated support systems in place for male nurses, such as the American Association for Men in Nursing.
In 2018, the AACN formed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Group (DEIG) to provide expert guidance to both the AACN and its member schools on ways to explore long-term, sustainable, and strategic goals that are designed to promote and support diversity in the nursing field. In 2021, that organization became the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Leadership Network (DEILN), which furthers initiatives to improve inclusion, equity, and diversity in the nursing workforce and academic nursing.
What Is the Future of Diversity in Nursing?
The growing focus on diversity in nursing could help current and aspiring nurses develop a deeper understanding of how to support and engage patients from a range of different backgrounds. It takes brave leaders in nursing to help effect positive change in representation.
If you aspire to be a nurse leader and want to work to improve diversity in healthcare, explore Maryville University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice. The program can equip you with the critical skills necessary to take on greater nursing responsibility and achieve professional growth. Start your journey toward an expanded role in the nursing profession today.
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Improving nursing diversity strengthens the trust between patients and nurses, which can lead to patients more strongly adhering to nurses' recommendations.Why is it important to learn about diversity in nursing? ›
Diversity training and education helps nurses deliver equitable care to patients of different races, cultures, genders, socioeconomic status, and religions. Such training develops cultural sensitivity, a deeper awareness of diversity, and cultural knowledge.How would you add diversity to the work environment and your job as a nurse? ›
- Reach out to kids at a young age so they understand that a career in nursing is a real option for them. ...
- Encourage minority nursing students to take advantage of academic support programs. ...
- Recruit more minority faculty members to nursing programs.
Diversity in health care helps ensure all backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, and perspectives are adequately represented in the medical field. It's about providing the best possible care for all patients.Why is it important to promote diverse nursing leadership? ›
Diverse leaders can serve as important role models, provide guidance and mentorship for other nurses, influence how resources are allocated, and shape policies aimed at eliminating systemic and structural inequities in health care and in the workplace.Why is it important to embrace diversity in care? ›
Good equality and diversity practices make sure that the services provided to people are fair and accessible to everyone. They ensure that people are treated as equals, that people get the dignity and respect they deserve and that their differences are celebrated.What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion in nursing? ›
A diverse nursing staff can enable nurses to learn from one another and build a greater understanding of others' backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences. This understanding can inform and strengthen the quality of the healthcare that nurses provide.How can you promote diversity in nursing? ›
- Broaden the view of diversity: Diversity isn't just about race and ethnicity. ...
- Join a diversity committee: Whether at work or in the community, a DEI group can help open up opportunities. ...
- Make new friends: Bigotry and bias can be overt or subtle.
Nurses must treat people as individuals and uphold their dignity. To achieve this, there is a need to avoid making assumptions about people and recognise diversity and individual choice.Why is understanding diversity important? ›
Learning about other cultures helps us understand different perspectives within the world in which we live. It helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups. In addition, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own.
Lack of healthcare diversity can lead to limited perspective when providing patients with medical care, psychological treatment, and social support.
Research has found that diversifying your team can boost productivity by 35%.. A diverse workforce is more likely to understand your customers' needs and come up with ideas to fulfill them. Diversity in the workplace will also increase employee morale and instill a desire to be more effective and work more efficiently.What are the benefits of diversity in healthcare leadership? ›
Improved patient-clinician relationships, increased trust, and communication. Increased likelihood of patients accepting and receiving evidence-based medical care.Why is it important to be culturally competent in nursing? ›
Cultural competence helps the nurse to understand, communicate, and interact with people effectively. More specifically, it centers around: Understanding the relationship between nurses and patients. Acquiring knowledge of various cultural practices and views of the world.Why is inclusion important in nursing? ›
Inclusion is about deliberately creating a respectful and safe environment for all staff and patients. Inclusion means giving patients and staff a voice in giving and receiving care and encouraging diversity. Healthcare isn't the place for a one-size-fits-all approach.What does diversity mean in healthcare? ›
In the medical community, diversity often refers to the inclusion of healthcare professionals, trainees, educators, researchers, and patients of varied race, ethnicity, gender, disability, social class, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, primary spoken language, and geographic region.Why is it important to appreciate diversity? ›
Cultural celebrations foster respect and open-mindedness for other cultures. Celebrating our differences, as well as our common interests, helps unite and educate us. To understand other's perspectives, to broaden our own, and to fully experience and educate ourselves.Why is it important to be aware of diversity and inclusion? ›
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is more than policies, programs, or headcounts. Equitable employers outpace their competitors by respecting the unique needs, perspectives and potential of all their team members. As a result, diverse and inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.What are 3 benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace? ›
Increased employee engagement and trust
This higher engagement has a ripple effect on profitability, team morale, and retention. People working in inclusive workplaces also tend to have better physical and mental health and take less leave for health issues.
In her model, Campinha-Bacote describes five interrelated concepts: (1) cultural awareness, (2) cultural knowledge, (3) cultural skill, (4) cultural encounters, and (5) cultural desire.
One barrier is media exposure — when minority students don't see ethnically diverse nurses on television, they sometimes don't believe that nursing could be a career for them. Another barrier can be a lack of interest in math and science, which is important to nursing.How can you contribute to inclusivity and diversity in nursing? ›
- Provide education through literature and work groups.
- Create a sense of belonging.
- Encourage them to share their views.
- Give them a voice in decision-making.
- Foster individuality.
- Provide opportunities to learn and develop.
- Accept people's differences but find common ground. ...
- Learn something new from people that are different to you, don't shut it down. ...
- Make sure you give everyone a chance to have an opinion. ...
- Avoid using stereotypes and recognise and address your own bias.
Encourage training and development: Don't overlook formal training. Training and development programs can educate staff about recognizing unconscious biases to challenge assumptions. Create development opportunities for women and minorities: Women and minorities receive fewer assignments that can spur career growth.How do you promote equality and value diversity? ›
- Always challenge negative attitudes.
- Be aware of humour and jokes amongst students as these can sometimes be derogatory around stereotypes; challenge them.
- Ensure the diversity of your students is reflected in your lesson plans and activities.
Avoiding stereotypes in curricular resources and examples. Setting clear rules regarding how people treat each other. Treating all students and staff equally and fairly. Creating an all-inclusive environment for students and staff.How does diversity make us stronger? ›
Diversity promotes critical thinking
In addition, Scientific American found that exposure to diversity changes the way people think and ultimately improves innovation, creativity, and problem-solving skills, which makes us smarter.
- Support equitable access to quality and affordable health and other social services (e.g., education, housing, transportation, child care) and accessibility within these services.
- Recognize, respect, and support the diversity of the community they serve.
The benefits of diversity in the workplace are immense. It improves workplace productivity, company culture, employee retention, and fights biases. It also helps with your company's reputation and much more.What is diversity in one sentence? ›
the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something: There is a wide diversity of opinion on the question of unilateral disarmament. Fewer examples. She teaches the students to have respect for different races and appreciate the diversity of other cultures.
- Increased Creativity. ...
- Boosts Productivity. ...
- Various Perspectives. ...
- Improved Innovation. ...
- Faster Problem Solving. ...
- Improved Decision Making. ...
- Reduced Employee Turnover. ...
- Helpful Language Skills.
A diverse workplace adds new ideas and inputs. This diversity of talent means a broader range of skills among employees and a variety of experiences and perspectives, which increases the potential for increased productivity. As various cultures and backgrounds work together, the opportunity for creativity increases.What is diversity in nursing? ›
What Is Diversity in Nursing? Diversity is about more than just race and gender; it encompasses disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and veteran status, as well as differences in background, experience, education, and even thought.How does cultural differences impact nursing? ›
One of the most common cultural issues that arise for nurses involves faith and religious beliefs. Certain religious groups might refuse prescription medications, blood transfusions, surgeries, or other potentially life-saving treatments because of their religious beliefs.How can a nurse improve cultural competence? ›
- Change your practitioner/patient perspective. ...
- Share Something About Your Own Culture That May be Similar to Your Patient's Culture. ...
- Learn From Your Coworkers and Colleagues. ...
- Learn a New Language. ...
- Complete Continuing Nursing Education Courses.
A lack of cultural diversity in nursing creates barriers that could be the difference between life and death for a patient. According to a Health Professionals for Diversity report, when a patient's unique cultural, communication and social needs are represented, access to care is improved.How can nurses make team more inclusive? ›
A few everyday things that nurses can do to create a more inclusive, equitable, and openly diverse environment are to make new friends outside their current circle, celebrate the holidays of the religions and cultures present among their colleagues, and report situations when staff members don't feel included or ...What are 4 benefits of inclusion? ›
Some of the benefits of inclusion for children with (or without) disabilities are friendship skills, peer models, problem solving skills, positive self-image, and respect for others. This can trickle down to their families as well, teaching parents and families to be more accepting of differences.Why is it important to understand what diversity is? ›
Diversity is important in today's world because it helps us learn from each other and understand that everyone is unique and special in their own way. Just like how each person has their own interests, hobbies, and talents, people also have different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.Why is it important to discuss diversity? ›
A diverse environment has multiple benefits for personal development. Outside of becoming accepting and more aware of other cultures, it can help smash previously held stereotypes. Diversity and inclusion breed productivity as the ability to learn and grow from each other is exponentially expanded.
Diversity brings in new ideas and experiences, and people can learn from each other. Bringing in different ideas and perspectives leads to better problem-solving. Working in diverse teams opens dialogue and promotes creativity. The value of diversity is true for our culture, too.Why is it important for us to understand and appreciate diversity? ›
Through each other's diversity, we become more aware of our own. Not only do we become more aware, we gain a sense of pride for the diversity of our own culture. Understanding people and their backgrounds is crucial to personal and community growth. Because diversity makes the world go round!What is the value of diversity? ›
Valuing diversity is what institutions and members of a community do to acknowledge the benefits of their differences and similarities. They intentionally work to build sustainable relationships among people and institutions with diverse membership.How do you benefit from diversity? ›
Diversity, including diversity of gender, religion, and ethnicity, has been shown to improve retention and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover. In a diverse workplace, employees are more likely remain loyal when they feel respected and valued for their unique contribution.