Why Diversity in Nursing Matters

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Why is diversity in nursing important? Diversity in nursing benefits patients by improving health outcomes, and nurses by combating racism in the workplace. It also benefits healthcare organizations by boosting financial performance, curating a positive reputation, and encouraging community engagement.

group of nurses and healthcare staff

Nursing can be an exciting and rewarding career. There is a diverse range of nursing specialties to choose from and plenty of different workplace settings, from hospitals and nursing homes to schools and patients’ private homes. However, when discussing the concept of diversity in nursing, attention to diversity among healthcare professionals is important.

At the University of Mount Saint Vincent, our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is committed to fostering a diverse educational environment that prepares students to provide compassionate, patient-focused care. Students graduate ready to earn their nursing license and become healthcare leaders, contributing to positive patient outcomes and improved working environments for all healthcare staff.

A diverse team of nursing professionals from all different backgrounds, heritages, and walks of life is crucial for cultivating a robust and thriving patient care environment. Diversity in healthcare benefits everyone—patients, healthcare professionals, and healthcare organizations. Let’s take a closer look at why and how.

Exploring Cultural Diversity in Nursing

The concept of diversity in nursing refers to diversity among nursing team members. Diversity can be categorized in many ways, such as diversity of:

  • Race and ethnicity
  • Age
  • Family structure
  • National origin and immigration or refugee status
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Language
  • Sex and sexual orientation
  • Religious beliefs

Nursing is a profession that ought to bring together colleagues from all walks of life, united in their shared mission to help patients get well. After all, they are serving patients from every group in society. Yet, significant disparities exist in nursing. According to the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey, the proportions of nurses identifying in various racial and ethnic groups were:

  • 80% Caucasian/White
  • 7.4% Asian
  • 6.3% African American/Black
  • 2.5% Multiracial

The 2022 survey reveals somewhat better ethnic diversity than in years past, but more work clearly remains.

Why Is Diversity in Nursing Important?

three nurses

Representation matters in all aspects of society, such as political systems, school districts, and healthcare systems. When nursing and healthcare teams are comprised of diverse professionals, everyone benefits—the patients, staff, and healthcare organization. Why is diversity in nursing important, exactly? Let’s take a closer look at some specific reasons why diversity in nursing benefits nurses and patients.

Promotes Better Patient Outcomes

Prospective nurses work hard in school to learn how to competently care for patients. The ultimate goal is to provide the best possible care to increase the chances of favorable patient outcomes. In other words, the better a nurse is at doing their job, the more likely it is that a patient can be successfully discharged.

Research shows that when patients are cared for by diverse nursing teams, they enjoy more favorable health outcomes. Furthermore, diversity in healthcare is associated with improvements in the quality of patient care.

Facilitates Equity in Healthcare

Healthcare disparities are a significant problem in the U.S. Inequalities in healthcare encompass differences in healthcare service accessibility and a disproportionate burden of disease on socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. Furthermore, disadvantaged populations have reduced potential to achieve optimal health.

Systemic reasons for healthcare disparity in the U.S. include insufficient cultural diversity in nursing. When representation is minimal in the nursing workforce, diverse patients may feel excluded and disconnected from the healthcare system that is supposed to serve all.

Empowers Nurses

Along with empowering patients and encouraging greater engagement, diversity in healthcare empowers the nursing workforce by encouraging greater cultural competence and combating racism.

According to a 2022 survey, almost half of nurses reported “a lot” of racism in the profession, and 63% of those surveyed stated they had personally experienced an act of racism. Racist acts and language in the workplace affect nurses’ personal well-being and professional opportunities.

By increasing diversity in nursing, healthcare organizations can empower nurses and cultivate a supportive, safer environment. Nurses working in diverse teams may feel better able to report harassment and discrimination when they happen, and their work performance may benefit as a result.

nurse checks patient's blood pressure

Every nurse can apply leadership skills in the workplace. Explore 9 key qualities for leadership success here.

How to Promote Diversity in Nursing

Many compelling reasons exist to promote diversity in healthcare. So, how exactly can nurses and healthcare administrators do this? Let’s take a closer look.

Collaborate on a Meaningful DEI Statement

One of the first steps in promoting diversity in nursing is to develop a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement. This statement should not only spell out the organization’s commitment to developing a diverse, supportive, and culturally competent workplace environment but also establish actionable protocols.

For example, a DEI statement should:

  1. Explicitly explain that acts of discrimination and harassment are unacceptable.
  2. Hold violators accountable for their actions by specifying methods of recourse and punitive consequences.

Organizations should establish their commitment to their DEI statement throughout all levels and departments and take active steps toward improving the workplace culture, such as mandating cultural competence training for all employees.

Implement a Results-Oriented Reporting Process

Barriers may exist to addressing acts of discrimination and harassment when they occur, including:

  • Being unaware of how to report it;
  • Fearing retaliation for reporting it;
  • Believing that, even if it’s reported, nothing will be done and nothing will change.

Organizations must establish clear and consistent reporting processes that protect employees and ensure that they are informed of their rights. Furthermore, when these acts are reported, a system of investigation and punitive consequences must be consistently followed.

Focus on Recruiting From Diverse Populations

One essential way to increase cultural diversity in nursing is to recruit nurses from diverse populations. Human resource managers at hospitals and other healthcare facilities need to ensure that all of the language used in their recruitment and hiring procedures (i.e., job ads, policies, and handbooks) is free of implicit biases and actively embraces inclusion.

nurse in hospital with folder in arms smiling at camera

Benefits of Recruiting Diverse Nurses

By this point, you know why diversity is important for nurses and their patients. But why is diversity in nursing important and beneficial for healthcare organizations as a whole? The many benefits include:

Improved Financial Performance

Most healthcare organizations have two main priorities: ensuring excellence in patient care and safety and turning a profit or remaining financially secure. When scientists conducted an umbrella survey of 16 scientific studies, the majority demonstrated that more diverse healthcare organizations showed better financial performance.

Stronger Community Engagement

Going to a hospital to receive care isn’t transactional, and nursing care is much more than simply administering medications and checking vital signs. Similar to mental health counselors, nurses work hard to develop a good rapport with their patients, particularly in specialties where they work with the same patient caseload over a long period.

Trust and rapport are crucial in nursing care because patients are less likely to discuss sensitive health issues—or even go to the clinic at all—if they don’t trust their nurses.

Representation in the nursing profession encourages better engagement in the healthcare system and its processes. When patients feel that their healthcare providers understand them and can provide culturally competent care, they may be more likely to develop positive health-seeking behaviors and adhere to treatment recommendations.

This reflects well on healthcare organizations as a whole, allowing them to serve their communities with integrity and fulfill their mission.

Better Recruitment and Retention

Healthcare organizations rely on solid recruitment efforts that allow them to hire highly qualified nursing staff. Moreover, hospitals must retain these qualified staff members over time. When hospitals and other facilities cultivate a reputation for a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace environment, this positive reputation will naturally support recruitment efforts.

Nursing students having a conversation in a clinical setting

The Role of Education in Promoting Diversity

Nursing education is a crucial factor in promoting diversity in healthcare. When nursing school programs actively encourage diverse populations to apply and provide them with the support they need, more diverse nursing staff will be in the pipeline.

At the University of Mount Saint Vincent, for example, we strongly encourage diverse applicants to apply to our nursing school. Our diversity and inclusion statement reflects the school’s commitment to “fostering respect for the dignity of each individual through a university-wide effort to build a community that is personally and socially enriching.” Although our history is rooted in the Catholic tradition, we welcome individuals from all faith traditions and of no religious tradition.

Are you thinking of going to nursing school? It’s important to choose the right nursing program. Learn more here.

nurses in meeting

Join the Diverse Learning Community at Mount Saint Vincent

The University of Mount Saint Vincent strives to cultivate a diverse and supportive student learning community. Our ABSN program allows you to graduate in as few as 16 months and confidently sit for the NCLEX licensure exam. Additionally, we offer three start dates each year so you can start working toward a meaningful career in nursing sooner.

Take the next step today and contact an admission counselor at the Mount.