Hand holding end systemic racism sign at peaceful protest
HealthDecember 01, 2020

An end to chronic racism

By: Heather Steele MSN, RN
Racism is defined as “a belief that a race [a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits] is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (American Nurse Association, 2016). With racism comes social injustice, inequities, and inequalities to the healthcare system. Unfortunately, it is not new and has been a documented chronic illness for decades.

A question to pose to ourselves and our colleagues, as an educator, are we providing real world examples to our students and simultaneously teaching ways to combat systemic racism in our classrooms or are we turning a blind eye?

As nurse educators, we need to take a stance and become way makers in the reform to end racism and the downstream effects it has, we can start with the nursing curriculum. I challenge nurse educators to add systemic racism into the nursing curriculum and to shed light on systemic racism in the classroom. We might be asking ourselves at this moment: what nursing course can this fit into? We already don’t have enough time to cover everything we need to. How am I going to educate our future nurses without myself or my students being uncomfortable?

First, it should be incorporated into all courses. Second, we must make time as it is just as important as a cardiovascular assessment. Lastly, self-reflection needs to occur on a regular basis but especially prior to developing a lesson plan for racism in healthcare-this is to identify any conscious and unconscious bias’s one may have prior to an open classroom forum.

Let’s pause and ask these questions of ourselves out loud:

  • Does my race or gender give me opportunities others don’t have?
  • Do I make assumptions about people because of how they look or who they love?
  • Am I treating every person I interact with the way that I would want to be treated?

If any of the answers above are yes, it does affect the care we give to our clients and how we treat our students. The people who were granted certain privileges simply based on race, gender, or sexuality—have a central responsibility to challenge ourselves with these questions and then change our behavior choices.

All nurses regardless of job title have a central responsibility to educate our future nurses on professional values regarding civility, mutual respect, and inclusiveness, and to resolve any potential conflicts in a manner that will ensure patient safety and that promotes the best interests of the patient (American Nurse Association, 2016). Let’s be the change agent and lead by example-starting with self-reflection and adding it to our nursing curriculums…yesterday.

Heather Steele MSN, RN
Nursing Education Author, Wolters Kluwer Health
  1. American Nurses Association. (2016). The nurse’s role in ethics and human rights: protecting and promoting individual worth, dignity, and human rights in practice settings. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/nursing-excellence/official-position-statements/id/the-nurses-role-in-ethics-and-human-rights/.
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