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DiversityNursing Blog

Trailblazing Nurse Leader Champions Diversity

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 @ 02:31 PM


Barbara Nichols, a national nurse leader who broke through color barriers to become the first Black president of the American Nurses Association, likes to point out that she entered the profession in its dinosaur days—before the advent of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, intensive care units, and pre-mixed narcotics.

It was also prehistoric in another way; Nichols became a nurse in the 1950s, when a national system of institutionalized discrimination kept minorities from entering and advancing in nursing.

In those days, many hospitals were segregated, as were many nursing schools. Those schools that weren’t often capped the number of students from racial, ethnic, and religious minority backgrounds with rigid quota systems. Few minority nurses earned baccalaureate or advanced degrees, and fewer still rose to become leaders of the profession.

But Nichols overcame those hurdles and eventually made history as the first Black nurse to hold national and state-level nursing leadership positions. Throughout her career, she has been helping others from underrepresented backgrounds enter and advance in the profession—a mission she continues at the age of 75 as director of a diversity initiative in her home state of Wisconsin.

“My whole career has been spent raising the issue of the need for racial and ethnic inclusion and looking for specific ways to involve and include more minorities in nursing,” she says. “That has been my passion.”

Born during tail end of the Great Depression and raised in Maine, Nichols was active in children’s theater and considered becoming an actor; but she ultimately decided against it because of limited professional acting roles for Blacks. Instead, she pursued a different, more “practical” dream, and became a nurse. “I was born in the late 30s, and the job market and occupations for Blacks were very limited,” she recalls. “Pragmatically, nursing was one of the fields you could go into.”

Not that it was easy. Nichols landed a highly coveted spot at Massachusetts Memorial School of Nursing in Boston, where she was one of only four Black students in her class. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Case Western Reserve University, where she wasbarbaranichols one of two Black students in her class. She took a job at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she was the only Black registered nurse (RN) on staff. She then joined the U.S. Navy, where she was one of a handful of Black nurses on a staff of 150.

But life as “a speck of pepper in a shaker of salt,” as one reporter put it, never held her back; rather, it propelled her forward as a nurse leader and advocate for diversity in nursing. As a young staff nurse, she recalls, her suggestions were ignored because of her race. “Nurses would say, ‘Well, who are you to tell us what to do,’” she recalls. “That’s when I decided to get into a leadership role. It was a direct result of being ignored, and of the impression I got that my ideas weren’t worthy of consideration because I was Black.”

And lead she did. In 1970, Nichols became the first Black woman to serve as president of the Wisconsin Nurses Association. To this day, she is still the only ethnic minority to serve as the organization’s president in its more than 100 years of existence. In 1979, Nichols went on to become the first Black president of the American Nursing Association—an organization that once banned Blacks—and served for two terms. In 1983, she became the first Black woman to hold a cabinet-level position in the state of Wisconsin when she was appointed to serve as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing. She was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nurses in 2010.

“I’ve been a role model who says that Blacks can achieve and can participate in meaningful ways in issues that are central to the profession,” she says.

A Long Way to Go

A lot has changed since Nichols first entered the profession. Nursing schools are no longer segregated and no longer use quotas. Employers are working harder to recruit and retain nurses of color, she adds, and more nurses from underrepresented backgrounds are seeking higher degrees.

But there’s still a ways to go before the nursing workforce reflects the increasingly diverse population it serves. The RN workforce is 75 percent White, almost 10 percent Black. and less than 5 percent Latino, according to a 2013 report by the Health Resources and Services Administration. A more diverse nursing workforce is needed to provide culturally relevant care, improve interaction and communication between providers and patients, and narrow health disparities, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

After six decades in nursing, Nichols is not giving up. A visiting associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing, Nichols recently took a position as project coordinator for the Wisconsin Action Coalition to help diversify the state’s nursing workforce. Action Coalitions are the driving force of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, which is backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP and aims to transform the nursing profession to improve health and health care. It is grounded in anIOM report on the future of nursing released in 2010.

“Our goal is to embed, and ground, all our activities with a diversity component,” Nichols said. To do that, she and her colleagues are gathering data about the diversity of Wisconsin’s nursing workforce, partnering with interested parties, raising money to sustain efforts to diversify the profession, and analyzing ways to promote diversity through policy and practice.

She also supports the Campaign’s national efforts to implement diversity planning, recruit and retain students and faculty from underrepresented groups, and promote advanced education and leadership development among minority nurses.

 “We have a big job ahead of us,” Nichols says, adding: “Prejudice is still out there.”

Source: RWJF

Topics: diversity, nurse, leadership, ANA, first Black president

New survey gives RNs insight into self-health

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 01:00 PM

RNs can compare their health, safety and wellness to the overall U.S. population and other nurses within demographic categories, including nursing specialty, by taking the American Nurses Association’s new HealthyNurse Health Risk Appraisal, developed in collaboration with Pfizer, Inc. 

This HIPAA-compliant online survey also allows nurses to assess workplace risks such as patient-lifting injuries and workplace violence, the ANA stated in a news release.

The appraisal is a component of ANA’s HealthyNurse program, which encourages nurses to focus on self-care so they can be at their healthiest — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually — to provide the highest quality of care and serve as role models, advocates and educators for their patients. 

“When we model the healthiest behaviors ourselves, it becomes easier to help our patients to do the best thing for their health,” ANA President Karen A. Daley, RN, PhD, FAAN, said in the news release. “This appraisal will help nurses to optimize their health and serve as an online check-up on the health risks they face in their personal and work lives.”

The data-gathering tool is combined with an interactive Web Wellness Portal, a website for respondents to obtain information and educational resources based on their interests, workplace conditions and results in areas such as fitness, nutrition, stress management, health screenings, sleep and tobacco and alcohol use. 

The appraisal, which takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete, will become a continually accumulating database that will enhance the nursing profession’s ability to track trends and set policy and advocacy priorities and strategies, according to the news release. The ANA recognizes a lack of data on nurses’ health and work environment, and demographic comparisons to national health benchmarks. The most applicable data, the Nurses’ Health Study from the Harvard School of Public Health, is more limited in topics and focuses on women’s health issues.

The ANA defines a healthy nurse as one who “actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal and professional well-being,” and who “lives life to the fullest capacity, across the wellness/illness continuum, as they become stronger role models, advocates and educators, personally, for their families, their communities and work environments, and ultimately for their patients.”

The ANA’s concept of a healthy nurse includes five aspects that enable nurses to function at their highest potential: calling to care, priority to self-care, opportunity to serve as a role model, responsibility to educate and authority to advocate. 

All RNs and RN nursing students are encouraged to take the appraisal for free and access the Web Wellness Portal at:


Topics: survey, ANA, HealthyNurse, HIPAA, self-care

American Nurses Association gives grant to Penn nursing to develop toolkit

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Sep 13, 2013 @ 12:03 PM

The American Nurses Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Nurses Association, in June announced a $75,000 grant to the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia to develop a post-traumatic stress disorder tool kit to help RNs better assess and treat PTSD in the nation’s veterans and military service members. Penn Nursing’s Nancy Hanrahan, RN, PhD, CS, FAAN, will lead the project at the university.

"Given that June is PTSD Awareness Month, this was the perfect time to highlight the serious consequences of PTSD, if left untreated, and what nurses can do to ensure that veterans receive the highest level of care," ANF Chairwoman Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, RN, PhD, MBA, FAAN, said in a news release. "At ANF, we are striving to transform the nation’s health through the power of nursing. We are excited about this new project because these tools will help nurses learn detection and treatment options that can help our nation’s veterans and service members transition successfully back into civilian life." 

ANF will work with Penn Nursing to develop an interactive, PTSD-focused website, an e-learning module based on advanced gaming techniques and a downloadable smartphone app that will provide immediate access to materials for RNs to assess, treat, and refer military members and veterans for help with their symptoms. These e-learning tools will certify that an RN is grounded in assessment, treatment, referral and non-stigmatizing educational approaches to self-care and mutual help, according to the release. 

"In the United States, there are more than 3 million registered nurses that work in the community and in hospitals," Hanrahan said in the release. "By virtue of the large numbers of RNs and their presence in common community settings, military members and their families can receive timely access to self-care and help from RNs."

The grant to Penn Nursing was made possible by funding from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. The tool kit will be piloted in Pennsylvania during the fall with a national launch planned for 2014. Additionally, Penn Nursing’s forthcoming health technology lab program will support RN inventors who desire to use technology and game theory to address healthcare challenges. 


Topics: ANF, grant, UPenn Nursing, PTSD, ANA, treatment

Nursing industry is growing, flexible

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Jun 05, 2013 @ 12:18 PM

The job of nurse anesthetist comes with many attractions. There’s a high level of responsibility, a challenging work environment and the chance to do good for others. There’s also the prospect of virtually assured employment.

“I saw that there was going to be job security. It would pretty much always be there,” said Navy Reserve Lt. j.g. Loren Gaitan.

Gaitan, 33, is working on her master’s degree at Florida International University in a full-time, 2½-year program. A former neonatal nurse, she is looking to the anesthetist specialty as a way to increase her skills and take on more responsibility.

It could be a lucrative move: puts median annual pay at nearly $180,000.

Nurse anesthetist is one of several fast-growing nursing specialties. Thanks to changes in national health-care laws, a range of concentrations in the nursing field are rising to the fore. With new mandates requiring employers to insure their workers, the health-care system will see a flood of new patients, said Connie White Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. “The opportunities across the nation will be just profound,” she said.

Job options

Any of these growing jobs could be an easy fit for a veteran with training as a military nurse:

Nurse practitioner: This person typically has a master’s degree as well as a certification from one of several national bodies. The practitioner may diagnose illnesses, examine patients and prescribe medication. “They are not just going to treat the symptom. They will say, ‘You need to diet. You need to exercise,’ where a physician might just give you a pill,” said Gerrit Salinas, director of the recruiting agency Snelling Medical Professionals. “A nurse practitioner can help people feel like they are more than just a number.” The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners puts the mean salary at $91,310.

Nurse informatics: With the rise of electronic medical records, the role of the informatics nurse has become increasingly significant. These workers don’t just convert paper into electronic records; they also must be well-versed in patient care, privacy issues and technology. They may work in medical settings but also in home health agencies, insurance companies and other entities involved in the management of digital records. The average salary is $98,702, according to the Health Informatics Forum.

Case management nursing: Here again, changes in health-care law are driving demand. As new care models evolve, providers will be expected to coordinate medical treatments in order to ensure efficient and effective care. That’s a big part of the case management job description. Case management nurses typically coordinate long-term treatment, especially for patients with chronic conditions. The average salary is $73,000, according to job site

Geriatric nursing: Care for seniors is a fast-growing field as the nation’s aged population swells. Medical issues may include diabetes, respiratory problems, hypertension and other conditions. Geriatric nurses offer treatment, while also offering guidance to patients and families. The average salary for a geriatric nurse is $54,457, according to

Home health nursing: As the name suggests, home health-care providers deliver services to those whose conditions allow them to stay at home but who still require ongoing medical attention. The field is growing fast, largely on account of the rapidly expanding population of older Americans. Salaries average around $40,000 but can vary widely by geography.

Go anywhere

There are numerous avenues into nursing, including specialized fields. The American Nurses Association,, offers guidance.

To support veterans in the field, the government’s Health Resources and Services Administration makes grants to colleges and universities with expedited curricula that help train vets for careers as physician assistants. The Veterans Affairs Department employs a range of nurses.

“We recognize this as an opportunity to support veterans who have served the nation, and as a chance to help fill some shortages in the health care area. It’s a win-win situation,” said Joan Wasserman, Advanced Nursing Education Branch chief for HRSA’s Bureau of Health Professions.

Many schools offer programs of various lengths for those looking to get into the field. Advocates say it’s worth the effort.

“Nursing is one of the best careers you can get into because it is so flexible,” said Pat Harris, associate director of a program at Arizona State University Online that helps practicing nurses earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. “No matter what changes are in the wind in health care, you are going to be in a key position. Once you have that license to practice medicine, you can go anywhere.”

Source: Marine Corps Times

Topics: growing, nursing, ANA, NP, career

Social Media Guidelines

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 @ 12:18 PM

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The use of social media and other electronic communication is expanding exponentially as the number social media outlets, platforms and applications available continue to increase. Individuals use blogs, social networking sites, video sites, online chat rooms and forums to communicate both personally and professionally with others. Social media is an exciting and valuable tool when used wisely. The very nature of this medium however can pose a risk as it offers instantaneous posting opportunities that allow little time for reflective thought and carries the added burden that what is posted on the Internet is discoverable by law even when it is long deleted.

Because of inappropriate use of social media, some nurses have lost their jobs, been disciplined by the Board of Nursing, been highlighted in national media, been a target of lawsuits, and been criminally charged. What do nurses need to know so that they can use social media, both personally and professionally, without worrying about repercussions? NCSBN has developed some guidelines for using social media responsibly.

NCSBN is thrilled to announce that they have collaborated with the American Nurse’s Association (ANA) on the professional use of social media. NCSBN has endorsed ANA’s principles of using social media, and ANA has endorsed NCSBN’s guidelines. ANA and NCSBN recently hosted a collaborative Webinar and they are planning further collaborative efforts to get the word out about using social media appropriately without harming patients. These are the social media guidelines from the National Student Nurse Association. NSNA Social Media Guidelines.

Topics: inappropriate, job loss, NCSBN, nurse, ANA, social media

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