How would you feel if you walked into a job interview for a nurse manager role, and all of the individuals in leadership positions that were interviewing looked nothing like you? Does the lack of diversity in nursing affect or change the goals you have set for yourself based on this initial impression? With the growing diverse populations, it is vital to have diverse healthcare professionals in leadership roles as it provides an accurate representation of what our society looks like. Nurses are no exception as they often move into leadership positions, but may doubt that they can get those positions if they don’t see ethnic representation. This does not mean putting out statements about diversity and inclusion, but actually putting actions to those words.
I remember the day when I walked into my first interview for a registered nurse position, and my first thought was, "Wow, this place is huge!" As I walked around, my next thought was, "Where is the melanin?" The big moment of truth came when I walked into the conference room for my interview, saw those in leadership positions, and noticed the lack of diversity. I immediately started to doubt myself and began to question the likelihood of "moving up" in the future with that organization. When I didn't see any diversity in the leadership roles, I immediately doubted my possibilities for success.
Reading this, you may think that healthcare — whether as a worker or patient — should not be about race or ethnicity, but when you don't see others that look like you, it’s hard to believe that an organization values you. I have lost count of how often patients requested to have me as their nurse because they felt I would understand them better just because I looked like them or spoke their language.
According to Diverse Best Practices, the United States has a projected population growth from 321 million to 359 million people by 2030. Most of this growth comes from minority populations. This means that diversity in the healthcare profession, specifically in leadership roles, should represent the composition of the people. With the growing diverse populations, it is vital to have diversity in nursing leadership, as it accurately represents our society. Not every patient is the same, and not all cultures are the same.
Look at the following statistics regarding higher-paying leadership positions in the health industry:
- Women hold 80% of healthcare jobs, but only 4% of healthcare organizations are run by women.
- Senior-level positions are held more by white women than minority women, and the gap between the two continues to increase.
- Minorities hold only nine percent of CEO positions in hospitals and health systems in the United States.
What do these statistics tell you? Healthcare organizations should strive to be inclusive when hiring for and assigning leadership positions. Nurses have a significant impact on patient care and outcomes, and many times new policies and procedures are put in place due to the input of nurses.
Why are diversity and inclusion important in nursing?
A diversified leadership team has proven to improve healthcare disparities that exist in marginalized populations effectively. An inclusive nurse leadership and management team that values diversity brings a culturally sensitive powerhouse that can play a vital role in patient satisfaction and outcomes.
I lost count on the number of times that I have been a part of leadership rounds, where members of the management team did not consider patients' cultural and religious beliefs when making decisions on their care. However, once I put my two cents in and explained how their ideas would not work for a specific population and how insensitive their approach was, changes were made to the approach. When patients feel represented in the healthcare industry, they tend to come back. This holds true for employees as well.
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The National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives (NALHE) and Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) are aligned in their mission to increase access to high-quality education and equity in healthcare