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The Importance of Diversity in Nursing

There’s been an increased emphasis on DEI (diversity, equality, inclusion) across the business landscape, regardless of the industry. It’s an essential movement given the particularly divisive and heavy social climate we’ve witnessed over the past few years.

Each component of DEI intertwines to create a more holistic approach to human connectedness. While just one element of the whole picture, appropriate diversity practices are critical to helping individuals feel safe, recognized and supported.

The Wide Spectrum of Diversity

Diversity’s importance is exceptionally salient in healthcare, including the nursing profession. The increasing ethnic, cultural, demographic and personal diversity in communities nationwide requires that healthcare professionals mirror that patient population as best they can.

Diversity provides a competitive advantage, and “it is important to have a healthcare workforce which represents the tapestry of our communities … to render the best possible care to our diverse patient populations,” according to one article from the Journal of the National Medical Association.

It’s also important to remember that “diversity” expands beyond just race, ethnicity or demographics. Diversity-challenged cases include scenarios where numerous factors may impact patient care. Nurses may encounter these situations in various settings. Some examples of diversity elements include:

  • Gender identity: Patients may identify as transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid or other non-cisnormative identities. Gender identity is a critical aspect of diversity, and it is essential for healthcare providers, including nurses, to be knowledgeable and respectful in this area.
  • Language barriers: A nurse may care for a patient who doesn’t speak or understand the primary language used in healthcare. Without effective translation or interpretation services, miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings and potential harm.
  • Religious practices: A patient might refuse a specific treatment or medication due to religious beliefs. For example, a Jehovah’s Witness may decline blood transfusions. A Muslim patient may have concerns about medications containing alcohol or pork derivatives.
  • Alternative medicine: Some patients might prioritize traditional or alternative medicine over conventional treatments. A nurse may find a patient who wants to combine or replace standard treatments with traditional remedies, leading to potential interactions or decreased effectiveness.
  • End-of-life decisions: Cultural beliefs might shape decisions regarding resuscitation, life support and other end-of-life treatments. Some cultures prioritize preserving life at all costs, while others might prioritize the quality of life or spiritual considerations.
  • Mental health stigma: Many cultures stigmatize mental health issues, preventing patients from discussing symptoms. Nurses need to approach these situations with sensitivity and knowledge.

While a nursing team may not be able to represent all these scenarios, education is a significant resource for educating nurses on diversity to ensure every patient receives equitable, inclusive and effective treatment.

4 Benefits of Expanding Diversity in Nursing

There are many reasons to pursue a better understanding of diversity in the workplace. The following represent key benefits of ensuring diversity is a focus point of the nursing profession.

  • Enhanced patient care: Diversity in nursing translates to improved patient care. Nurses from different backgrounds bring various perspectives, approaches and skills that cater to diverse patient needs. A nurse who shares a cultural or ethnic background with a patient might better understand that patient’s values, beliefs and practices. This understanding can lead to tailored care, improved patient compliance and better health outcomes.
  • Diverse problem-solving: Every nurse, regardless of their background, brings unique experiences to the table. When nurses from different backgrounds come together, the collaborative problem-solving process becomes richer. This assortment of perspectives can foster innovative solutions to complex healthcare problems.
  • Representation and trust: Patients are more likely to trust and cooperate with healthcare professionals when they feel understood and represented. This trust is fundamental in ensuring patient compliance, understanding their medical needs and fostering a positive patient-nurse relationship.
  • Cultural competence: Culturally competent nurses can provide care that respects and is responsive to the health beliefs and practices, cultural needs and linguistic needs of diverse patient populations.

Efforts to Improve Representation in Nursing

To appreciate the full benefits of diversity, the nursing profession must actively work towards improving representation. Many initiatives and programs have been developed in recent years to encourage this:

  • Scholarships and grants: Institutions are offering scholarships and grants to minority nursing students to remove some financial barriers that might hinder their education.
  • Targeted recruitment: Nursing schools and associations are reaching out to underrepresented communities to attract prospective nurses from diverse backgrounds.
  • Advanced programs: Millersville University offers advanced programs, such as the online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nursing Leadership. Such programs provide education and emphasize the importance of diversity, ensuring that future nursing leaders prioritize it.
  • Cultural competency training: To ensure that all nurses, regardless of their background, are equipped to care for diverse patient populations, many institutions now mandate cultural competency training as part of their curriculum or professional development.

All Nurses Must Understand the Necessity of Diversity

Whether just starting their education or a seasoned professional, every nurse must recognize the significance of diversity in nursing. This is not just about increasing numbers but also understanding the profound impact it has on patient care and the healthcare system.

For nursing students, embracing diversity and cultural competence must begin from the earliest stages of education. Programs like Millersville’s MSN – Nursing Leadership equip students with the knowledge, skills and mindset to become leaders who prioritize and champion diversity in the workplace.

For those in the midst of their careers or at advanced stages, it’s never too late to recognize the importance of diversity. Continuous learning, attending workshops, seeking mentorship from diverse peers and advocating for diversity in hiring and promotions are just a few ways to embed this vital principle into nursing.

Promoting the Highest Standard of Care

Diversity in nursing is not just a nicety but a necessity. It benefits the healthcare system, improves patient outcomes and enriches nursing. As the global population becomes increasingly diverse, the nursing profession must reflect that diversity — ensuring that every patient, no matter their background, receives the highest standard of care.

Learn more about Millersville University’s online MSN – Nursing Leadership program.

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