As the demographics of the United States evolve into the melting pot it was intended to be it is imperative, we inspect and address the lack of diversity within the nursing community and what can be done to remedy the situation.
Historically the nursing profession has been thought to be the profession of young, white females. Jessie Sleet Scales, the first black public health nurse began her public health career helping African American families suffering from Tuberculosis (, 2017). She not only contributed to nursing diversity by encouraging other organizations to hire black community health nurses’ but she also helped to increase access to medical and decrease health disparities within the African American community. Lillian Wald understood the need for diversity and in 1906 hired 25 African American nurses to work as public health nurses.
It wasn’t until the nurse registration act in 1919 that men were legally recognized as nurses. More recently the LGBTQ community has become more prominent in our society; increasing the need for representation. Furthermore, one of the smallest communities with needing representation is those with disabilities; proving there is a need for increased diversity in nursing.
The United States census shows minority populations have increased year after year increasing the importance to mirror that within in our chosen field. Nursing diversity promotes cultural competency, increased access to medical care for underserved communities, and can help to decreases preventable health disparities (Cohen, Gabriel, & Therrell, 2002) (Cohen, Gabriel, & Therrell, 2002)such as Diabetes and the maternal, infant mortality rate.
History was made in 1879 as Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first African American nurse to graduate and work as a nurse in the United States with underserved parts of her community. An increase in minority nursing school acceptances means increased minority graduates working within the community. Studies show that minority nurses are more likely to work in underprivileged, under-served areas than non-minority groups but to achieve that we need to first increase the diversity of applicants to nursing schools. Colleges are beginning to implement initiatives that focus on recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups like the male population; that while on the rise, only made up 11.7% of the nursing students in 2014 (Argueta, 2018), and those with disabilities though not documented, make up even less of the nursing population. The Campaign for Action created by the AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation works toward improving and monitoring this increase.
With increased inclusion and diversity within the Nursing community comes an increase in cultural competencies and decreased cultural biases that can help to address some of the prime targets of Healthy People 2020. Furthermore, it will increase the probability of research about a minority group would be conducted. For instance, those with disabilities are at a high risk of obesity, depression and are less likely to receive preventive care like cancer screenings but a nurse who is a member of or has an understanding of the disabled community might push for research that may increase preventative care and decrease Depression and obesity rates within that group (‘Healthy People 2020’).
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