Minority Nurses And Their Role in Nursing

The demand for minority nurses continues to steadily increase as the U.S. population continues to grow and become more diversified.

There are now more than 50 million Latinos living in America, while one in eight Americans is black.

The latest U.S census taken in 2011 also revealed that 50.4% of children under the age of one are now from minority backgrounds. This will have a profound demographic impact on shaping political, economic, social and health-care policies in the future.

Already, hospitals across the United States are seeing increasing demand from Hispanic and African American patients. As the numbers of minority patients continues to grow so too will the demand for minority healthcare professionals.

Minority Nurses Are Sensitive To Cultural Differences

Health disparities exist between ethnic groups and patients from culturally unique backgrounds often challenge nurses trying to provide “white and Americanized” healthcare.

Different minorities have their own culturally unique notions about health and disease. Some are used to alternative healing and medicine too so having minority nurses on-staff can help better manage the needs of this diverse cross-section of patients.

For example, nurses from similar minority backgrounds understand about diets and what sort of changes would be acceptable to those patients. Research has also found that Hispanic and black patients stick to their treatment plans better when they have been treated by a nurse of doctor of the same ethnicity.

Minority Nurses Can Help Balance A Hospital Unit

The need for “culturally competent care” goes beyond the ability to communicate with patients in their native tongues as well. For example, trinkets and charms have great symbolic value in the Native American and Hmong cultures and nurses need to know not to discard those items.

The more diverse and well-rounded a team of nurses are at a hospital or health clinic, the more expert it becomes when dealing with patients from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

At the moment, of approximately 2,909,357 licensed registered nurses working in America, some 122,495 or 4.2% are Black or African American. There are 48,009 Hispanic or Latino nurses (1.7%), 89,976 Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island nurses (3.1%) and 9,453 American Indian or Alaska Native nurses. (0.3%).

Approximately 1.4% of RNs categorize themselves as two or more races and non-Hispanic, while 5.8% are men. African American, Asian and Pacific Island nurses are more likely to have degrees with 14.2% of black nurses having a nursing master’s or doctoral degree compared to 13.2% of Caucasian nurses.

As the need for minority nurses continues to grow, hospitals, nursing schools, and nursing associations all working together to provide the support minority nursing students, RNs and LPNs all need.

Nursing schools across the country have embarked on programs to support students from under-represented ethnic groups so that more highly trained minority nurses are available.

Strategies have included special scholarships and grants for minority nurses. And the support of minority nursing associations such as the National Black Nurses Association, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, the Asian American – Pacific Islander Nurses Association, the National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association and the Philippine Nurses Association of America.

All of these organizations are working hard to address the issues that impact on minority nursing students and minority nursing RNs.

This has has real implications for healthcare in the country because nurses from under-represented backgrounds are much more likely to go back and work with their own populations than somebody from another ethnic group.

“We believe it will improve the health care in our country”, said Vaneta Condon, PhD, RN, associate professor of nursing and director of the Pipeline to Registered Nursing: Increasing Diversity program at Loma Linda University School of Nursing in Loma Linda, California.

“It is going to make a real difference for people from ethic backgrounds if more minority nurses work with them.”

Increasing the number of minority nurses in America can have another major benefit too. There is a real and serious nursing shortage looming in the coming years as America’s population ages.

This will happen around the same time that nearly a quarter of all nurses in the country reach retirement age. Despite the best efforts over the past decade, minority nursing students remain critically underrepresented.

Cultural and financial obstacles have played their part in this as have the lack of academic support and mentorship programs. Until recently there has also been a lack of minority faculty reaching out to minority students.

These are all issues that nursing schools are looking at closely in their nursing programs today. The face of America is changing forever. This was illustrated clearly in the recent 2012 Presidential elections where minorities played a key role as President Obama swept back into power. Those same minorities are demanding better healthcare too.

The country needs greater numbers of highly trained minority nurses to fulfill that need. This is the challenge facing America in the coming decade. It also means great opportunities for minority nurses to really make a career for themselves in American healthcare.