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Embracing Diversity in Nursing Care

 
By: Shantelle Coediversity1

Without cultural diversity amongst healthcare providers, it is almost impossible to provide quality nursing care to people from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. A multicultural representation of nurses, physicians and clinicians is important to ensure the healthcare being delivered is sensitive and meets the physical and holistic needs in our “patient palette”.

In the United States, a rise in the population and increase in minorities further challenges our healthcare system to provide appropriate care to the ever changing population it serves.

Some of the major findings in a study on the changing demographics and the implications for physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Resources are bulleted here:

  • Minorities have different patterns of health care use compared to non-minorities. Disparities in access to care account for part of the difference in utilization.
  • Demand for health care services by minorities is increasing as minorities grow as a percentage of the population. Between 2000 and 2020, the percentage of total patient care hours physicians spend with minority patients will rise from approximately 31percent to 40 percent.
  • Minorities are underrepresented in the physician and nurdescribe the imagese workforce relative to their proportion of the total population.  As minorities constitute a larger portion of the population entering the workforce, their representation in the physician and nurse professions will increase. The U.S. will increasingly rely on minority caregivers.
  • Minority physicians have a greater propensity than do non-minority physicians to practice in urban communities designated as physician shortage areas. An increase in minority representation in the physician workforce could improve access to care for the population in some underserved areas.

The study also summarizes: “Advocates for increased minority representation in the health workforce argue that increasing the number of minority physicians will improve access to care for minorities and vulnerable, underserved populations. These advocates argue that increased representation of minorities in the health workforce not only will increase equity, but will also improve the efficiency of the health care delivery system”. (HRSA 2000)

Men (of all backgrounds) are also far under-represented in nursing.  Less than 1 percent of the population are male nurses.

As our nursing population lacks diversity, statistics show that the US population is becoming more diverse and will continue on through the decades.

Below are projections for the increase in diversity amongst minorities in the United States:

 

Year

Non-Hispanic White

African American

All Other

2000

69.1%

12.3%

18.6%

2005

67.1%

12.5%

20.4%

2010

64.8%

12.7%

22.5%

2015

62.8%

12.9%

24.3%

2020

60.8%

13.1%

26.1%

Source: Modified version of Census Bureau middle series prodescribe the imagejections.

As our demographics continue to change, one of our greatest challenges is getting hospital organizations along with healthcare administration to realize that, in order to provide the best care and ensure successful patient outcomes, we have to embrace diversity. This is especially challenging to nurses because they will be expected to deliver care that encompasses these differences. Many nursing task force teams and associates have been organized to address this issue of healthcare diversity, such as:

  • Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, Inc. (AAPINA)
  • National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association, Inc. (NANAINA)
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Inc. (NAHN)
  • National Black Nurses Association, Inc. (NBNA)
  • Philippine Nurses Association of America, Inc. (PNAA)

For nursing care of all cultures and backgrounds, we owe it to our profession to increase our awareness and get involved to ensure delivery of the best care possible. One of the most important steps any of us can take is to first embrace diversity.

About the Author: Shantelle Coe RN, BSN, has 14 years of nursing experience and is currently a Senior Manager (US Commercialization) for one of the largest international biotechnology sales and education companies.  She manages a team of Clinical Nurse Educators that provide medical device training to hospitals and physicians in the US and abroad.

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