The patient population includes people of different ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures. They may speak many languages and have dissimilar values and preferences that can influence how nurses deliver care. Thus, there is a need for a more diverse nursing workforce to reflect the changing demographics of patients in healthcare. Nurses who complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nursing Administration and work in leadership positions can take patient care in a new direction toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
What Does Diversity in Nursing Mean?
Diversity in nursing pertains to patients and nurses, meaning that they are distinguished by how they identify themselves. Here are just a few of the diverse characteristics of patients and nurses:
- Country of origin
- Cultural practices
- Ethnic heritage
- Veteran status
- Gender Identity
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Socioeconomic status
Why Is Inclusion a Necessary Part of Diversity?
Inclusion is an action that allows everyone to be part of a group, a crucial component in nursing. It breaks down barriers to create a collaborative and respectful work environment. Diversity and inclusion also bring together a variety of cultures, ideas and perspectives that can enhance patient care.
Why Are Diversity and Inclusion in Nursing Important?
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recognized the need for a diverse nursing workforce when it released its 2021 publication The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity. As the report’s title suggests, equity in healthcare and public health must be the primary goal of the healthcare system and the nursing field. Promoting and fostering a more diverse, representative and culturally competent nursing workforce is key to achieving this goal.
According to 2022 data from Statista, nearly one in four Americans are projected to be age 65 or older in 2060. In an analysis of 2020 Census data, The Washington Post reports that the non-Hispanic white population is estimated to shrink consistently over the next several decades, while the population of people who are multiracial is projected to be the fastest-growing cohort, followed by Asians and Hispanics. People of color are expected to be the majority of the U.S. population by 2045 and already make up a majority of Americans under 18.
As the population becomes more diverse, healthcare organizations must hire nurses who can communicate and understand the unique needs of individual patients. Without diversity in nursing, patients may experience frustration and dissatisfaction in their care. Also, a diverse and culturally competent nursing workforce can help close gaps in patient care by increasing cultural awareness and improving communication.
How Can Diversity Improve Patient Care?
When the nursing staff mirrors patient demographics, the quality of communication increases, potentially building trust between patients and nurses and positively impacting patient outcomes. Diversity in nursing can help:
- Address patient concerns and issues
- Boost patient satisfaction
- Ease anxiety and discomfort for patients
- Increase the patient’s understanding of, participation in and adherence to a treatment plan
- Increase the number of successful patient outcomes
- Reduce the likelihood of medical errors, increasing patient safety
What Can Nurse Administrators Do to Support Diversity?
Nurse administrators can establish a practice environment that is accepting and inclusive of people from various backgrounds and age groups. Skilled nurse administrators lead without forming judgments, making assumptions or perpetuating stereotypes. A healthy, supportive workplace is conducive to open dialogue and an exchange of opinions and expertise. Nurse administrators can support diversity in the following ways:
- Reach out to students from a variety of cultures to encourage them to pursue a nursing career
- Promote the recruitment, employment and retention of all types of nurses
- Prepare minority nurses for leadership positions
As the patient population continues to evolve, nursing personnel who do the same can provide the best possible care. A diverse set of nurses, leaders and educators can help ensure equitable care for all by ensuring patients have the representation they need.