Why Diversity in Nursing Matters

In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that ethnic and racial minority groups accounted for more than one- third of the country’s population and projected the U.S. will become a plurality nation by 2048. This means that no one ethnic or racial group will make up the majority of the population. With the country’s makeup growing ever more diverse, it’s especially important to make sure the first line of care in exam rooms represents the demographics of America’s waiting rooms.

As the country ages and national spending on health care increases, the industry continues to expand far faster than average and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth of more than 15 percent by 2026. With the need for skilled nurses increasing exponentially, it’s going to be the industry’s challenge to make sure those new jobs are filled by as diverse a workforce as possible.

How do nursing demographics currently rank? The National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s 2017 Workforce Survey shows that nurses from minority backgrounds make up 19.1 percent of the workforce and male nurses comprise 9 percent. While these diversifying statistics are encouraging in moving nursing beyond its reputation as a majority white and female profession, the health care industry needs to continue to attract, retain, and promote a diverse nursing staff to keep pace with equal representation. Equally important to consider is that while many studies quantify diversity in terms of racial percentages, measures of diversity would do well to expand to include gender, socioeconomic background, and LGBTQ identification as well.

Why Diversity in Nursing is Important

  • Nurses who share a cultural background and experience with their patients are better able to communicate and advocate for their care.
  • Patients are better participants in their own care when they are able interact with health care providers with whom they feel more comfortable communicating their symptoms and concerns.
  • When nursing staff more accurately represent the communities they serve, it helps eliminate health disparities among underserved populations.
  • A diverse nursing staff can influence policy and decision-making within their institutions to better serve minority populations.
  • Increasing diversity in nursing can have the added trickle-up benefit of increasing diversity in nurse educators and research staff as nurses advance through the health care system.

With all-important health outcomes on the line, health care organizations are eager to recruit and retain nurses from traditionally under-represented groups, with nurses possessing a bachelor’s degree being in especially high demand. Since these under-represented populations are often at a disadvantage for educational opportunities, colleges and universities are exploring recruitment strategies that speak to those populations as well as incentives like flexible course structures and hands-on career advisement. Many large health care organizations have implemented internal committees aimed at nurturing diversity within their staff and are increasingly looking at outside partnerships with educational institutions to promote nursing as an occupation to a wider population.

Independent associations such as the National Black Nurses Association, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, the American Association for Men in Nursing, Black Nurses Rock, and others are also working to support nurses currently in the field with mentorships, continuing education opportunities, and professional networking events.

The entire health care industry is healthier when a concerted effort is made to increase diversity. Are you ready to add your unique voice? Learn more about Excelsior’s associate, bachelor’s, and master’s in nursing programs.