Why is diversity in nursing important? Diversity in nursing encompasses differences of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background and other characteristics. Diverse nursing teams tend to generate better patient outcomes, reduced health disparities and better financial performance for organizations.
Diversity in nursing has been slow to improve. According to the National Nursing Workforce Survey, respondents identifying as white/Caucasian have remained at nearly 80% from 2017 to 2022. That same period saw a slight decline in the number of nurses of Asian descent and a slight increase in the number of Black/African American nurses (from 6.2% to 6.3%). Nursing diversity also encompasses gender. From 2015 through 2022, the percentage of male licensed practical nurses (LPNs/LVNs) increased from 7.5% to 10.2%.
These statistics do not reflect the general population. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 13.6% of the U.S. population identifies solely as Black and 3% identifies as multiracial. Similarly, females comprise slightly over 50% of the general population. Clearly, diversity in nursing has some catching up to do.
But why is diversity in nursing important? We’ll dive into the many reasons why nursing diversity is beneficial.
If you’re passionate about becoming a registered nurse (RN) and want to help strengthen the nursing community, consider applying to the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Averett University. You could earn your nursing degree in as few as 16 months if you have prior non-nursing college education or a bachelor’s degree in another area.
What Exactly Is Diversity in Nursing?
Before considering the many reasons why nursing diversity is important, it’s helpful to understand what it truly means. Diversity encompasses differences of race and gender, but it extends further than this.
Diversity also encompasses age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ethnicity and veteran status and extends to differences in socioeconomic background, experience and worldview. A diverse team of nurses working together can learn from and help each other succeed.
No two people are exactly alike. The countless patients who rely on nurses come from various backgrounds and represent a spectrum of ethnicities, races, religions and genders. The nursing workforce needs to mirror the diversity of the patient population as much as possible.
Below is an exploration of the many positive effects diversity in nursing has on healthcare teams and patient outcomes.
It takes a lot to succeed as a nurse. Read about the top 10 soft skills in nursing here!
Nursing Diversity Can Improve Patient Outcomes
Much of the work that nurses do depends upon clear communication, rapport and trust between nurses and their patients. Patients who don’t feel seen and heard or trust their clinician may be less likely to divulge sensitive health information and be unwilling to follow treatment recommendations. Studies have shown that when diverse nursing teams provide care, patients generally have better outcomes. Additional research has shown that a diverse nursing workforce leads to improvements in the quality of patient care.
Patients need to feel they can connect with their clinicians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61.1% of Black patients felt that it was “very important” or “somewhat or slightly important” that their healthcare providers understand their culture.
Diversity in Nursing Empowers the Nursing Workforce
Another reason diversity in nursing is critically important is that the nursing workforce is not immune to systemic racism. One study found that 92% of Black nurses, 69% of Hispanic nurses, 73% of Asian nurses and 74% of other or multiracial nurses reported suffering from racism in the workplace — from fellow healthcare providers, patients, patients’ family members and managers/administrators.
Many steps are needed to effectively combat systemic racism in the healthcare workplace. One step toward change is encouraging greater diversity among the nursing workforce. With greater nursing diversity comes more empowered nursing teams.
Curious to learn more about nursing teams in the workplace? Click here to explore the value of teamwork in nursing!
Healthcare Diversity Combats Health Disparities
Health disparities are inequitable differences in access to care, abilities to reach optimal health or the burden of diseases or injuries that groups of people who are socially disadvantaged may experience. These patient populations include those characterized by race, gender, socioeconomic status or similar characteristics. Another reason why diversity in nursing is crucial is that it can help combat these health disparities.
How, exactly? Evidence shows nurses who are racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to return to underrepresented communities once they’ve earned their nursing license. They work to bridge the gap to correct health disparities and empower disadvantaged patients.
A Diverse Nursing Workforce Improves Performance Metrics
Diversity in nursing isn’t only important for achieving better patient outcomes, combating racism in the workplace and solving health disparities; it also improves performance metrics in nursing. A more diverse workforce in hospitals and healthcare clinics could improve patient outcomes and the quality of patient care.
For example, evidence shows that when a nursing team is more diverse, the team tends to be characterized by better team communication. Diverse nursing teams also score higher in performance metrics for nursing innovation and better risk assessments. Change is inevitable in every workplace, including the healthcare field. Inclusive and diverse workplaces tend to handle change better.
What Will the Nursing Landscape Look Like in the Future?
Only time will tell what the nursing landscape will look like moving forward and whether the percentages of minorities in nursing will mirror those of the general population. However, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is one organization working toward positive change.
Here’s a quick look at some of the strategies the AACN and its partners are executing to enhance diversity in nursing:
- Inclusive learning environments – In partnership with Johnson & Johnson, the AACN has launched a new initiative to help nursing schools build more inclusive learning environments. The Building a Culture of Belonging in Academic Nursing initiative seeks to foster a spirit of belonging and facilitate student success among underrepresented populations.
- Diversity in leadership – The AACN hosts the Diversity Leadership Institute, intended to assist academic nurse leaders in developing and implementing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in their institutions.
- Grant programs – The AACN is working with multiple partner organizations to advocate for greater federal funding for the Nursing Workforce Diversity Grants and similar programs. The grants program funds projects to increase access to nursing education for school applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Earn Your Nursing Degree at Averett
Averett embraces a diverse student body and nursing workforce, and we encourage all students who meet our admissions requirements to apply to our accelerated nursing program. In fact, diversity is one of our core values, along with integrity and innovation.
If you are passionate about serving as a leader of positive change in your community and within the nursing workforce, contact the admissions team at Averett to learn about the next steps toward becoming a nurse. You’ll be assigned a dedicated admissions counselor who will work with you to develop a personalized plan for becoming an RN.