Why Representation in Nursing Matters

All employers benefit from a diverse workforce. Advantages include a more creative and productive team, increased employee satisfaction, and different perspectives. Hospitals and other healthcare employers committed to diversity can hire nurses from backgrounds identical or similar to the local population.

Diversity in nursing involves hiring members of minority groups. It also includes hiring men, who comprise only 9.1% of registered nurses (RNs). Hiring a more diverse workforce offers many hidden benefits. One advantage is helping healthcare employers prepare for an imminent nursing shortage.

The following sections detail representation’s importance and how employers can increase diversity in the nursing profession.

What Is Representation?



Healthcare centers achieve representation by employing a workforce mirroring U.S. demographic trends. Much work remains to be done to achieve a more diverse workforce. For example, 13% of the population identifies as African American. However, only 4% of physicians fall into this group. A worse disparity gap exists for Latin Americans and other minorities.

Diversity in nursing narrows the representation divide, increasing communication between patients and medical staff. Some patients prefer speaking with medical professionals who share their cultural, racial, or religious group. Better communication allows healthcare workers to diagnose conditions faster and provide appropriate care. Other positive outcomes include increased patient willingness to follow medical advice.

Benefits extend beyond the healthcare provider-patient relationship. A more diverse workforce promotes cultural sensitivity and empathy among staff. White physicians and nurses learn how their biases affect patient care. They can modify their behavior accordingly and apply these lessons in their personal life. This leads to a more inclusive community.

Disparities in Healthcare



Disparities refer to the differences in treatment and medical outcomes between two or more groups. Negative effects include poor treatment by medical staff, worse care, and lower life expectancy. Sexual preference, race, national origin, disability, and socioeconomic status influence healthcare disparities.

Disparities occur due to medical professionals’ conscious and unconscious biases. Conscious bias refers to attitudes and beliefs someone recognizes in themselves, such as explicit racism. Unconscious bias describes stereotypes about racial, cultural, sexual, and socioeconomic groups. Most healthcare disparities occur due to unconscious bias. This appears more often when healthcare workers experience elevated stress.

Increasing diversity in nursing requires promoting health equity. A hospital with health equity provides the same level of care to all patients. However, promoting equity must occur in and outside of healthcare centers. Professionals such as social workers and health educators should advocate for safer neighborhoods, educational programs, and fair wages. These and other factors influence communities’ overall health.

RNs and other medical professionals should examine how they treat members of a minority group and whether this treatment leads to poorer outcomes. Many hospitals feature robust health equity programs for employees, such as professional development and community outreach programs.

How To Increase Diversity and Representation in Nursing



Healthcare employers can promote diversity in nursing in multiple ways. They may increase diversity hires, promote healthcare careers in diverse communities, and provide financial incentives. Employers can also create training programs for potential nurses.

These suggestions should provide employers with some ideas on how to increase diversity in the nursing workforce. Employees may possess additional guidance on how to promote representation and create a better workplace for all.


  • Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce

    Healthcare providers committed to diversity in nursing recruit and retain nurses through initiatives. Examples may include promoting nursing in minority-majority high schools and colleges, funding scholarship opportunities, and promoting diversity at all levels.

    Employers can increase diversity in healthcare by implementing these initiatives and listening to employee feedback. Mentorship programs can help employees from a minority background learn from experienced nurses with similar life experiences.


  • Remove Barriers To Higher Education

    Prospective nursing students from a minority group face many barriers to higher education. Barriers may include a lack of financial support and few role models within their community. Employers can address these challenges by providing financial incentives, including tuition-reimbursement or assistance programs. These programs increase retention by allowing employees to graduate without debt.

    Employers can also work with local community leaders to promote the nursing profession in churches, businesses, and other cultural centers. These outreach programs may target people of all ages considering a new career.


  • Encourage Minority Students To Pursue Nursing as a Career

    Aspiring nurses need a solid foundation in math and science. This education begins in high school. Employers can reach out to adolescents part of a minority group through high school presentations. They can explain the growing need for nurses, salaries, and their dedication to diversity in nursing.

    High school presentations allow companies to attain contact information. They can use this information to send students additional materials about the nursing profession.


  • Implement Diversity Training and Education

    Diversity and inclusion training programs highlight diversity’s benefits in the nursing workforce. Programs cover recent and historical social justice movements, unconscious bias, microaggressions, and cultural competency. Employees take a training program either at their workplace or online.

    Diversity and inclusion training programs provide additional benefits to healthcare managers. They learn how to promote diversity in nursing by identifying and correcting misconduct, demonstrating positive attitudes, and increasing cultural sensitivity among employees.


Additional Resources


  • Campaign for Action The organization works to build a society where everyone lives longer and healthier lives. Website visitors can access many resources on healthcare equity and advocacy.
  • Exceptional Nurse The group promotes diversity in nursing by encouraging people with a physical disability to enter the nursing profession. Student nurses benefit from the organization's financial aid, mentorship, and continuing education resources.
  • American Association for Men in Nursing AAMN strives to bring more men into the nursing profession through professional development resources. Student members receive the same voting rights and other benefits as practicing RNs.
  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing AACN provides U.S. nursing programs with diversity and inclusion training. The association's webinars cover holistic admissions and how to diversify the student population. AACN also awards scholarships to nursing students from a minority background.
  • DiversityNursing.com Job-seekers can use this site to explore employers committed to diversity in healthcare. After creating an account, nursing students and RNs can post a resume, apply to jobs, and browse professional development resources.

Portrait of Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

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