HealthJuly 08, 2021

Nursing organizations state their positions on systemic racism: JANAC authors analyze themes and messages

The murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans have prompted a national outcry against structural racism and police brutality. How are leading nursing organizations and schools of nursing defining their positions on racism? That's the topic of a special article in the July/August issue of The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (JANAC). The official journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, JANAC is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Three major national nursing organizations and many top-ranked schools of nursing have issued position statements on racism in the past year, according to the report by Amelia Knopf, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, of Indiana University, Indianapolis, and colleagues. These statements "assert an organizational or institutional commitment to confronting racism and provide direction for nurses to engage in anti-racist actions," the researchers write.

'A unified response from the nursing profession'

Over a three-month period in 2020,  Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – three unarmed Black Americans – were killed during responses to alleged criminal activity. These events spurred a massive series of anti-racism protests, a major social movement that has "shed a glaring light on the criminal justice system as a racist structure," according to the authors.

"This movement also provided a call to action to dismantle other racist structures, including those that permeate the health care system," Dr. Knopf and colleagues add. In the new paper, they analyze key ideas set out by position statements issued by three prominent national professional nursing organizations: the American Nurses Association (ANA), American Academy of Nursing (AAN), and American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Thematic analysis revealed that "these national bodies responded in a timely and consistent manner...[providing] direction for a unified response from the nursing profession." The statements addressed six key themes:

  • Condemnation of police brutality: Sending "a clear message that injustice and racism will no longer be tolerated" (AACN)
  • Acknowledgement of the effects of racism on health: Recognizing racism as "a public health crisis that impacts the mental, spiritual, and physical health of all people" (ANA)
  • Calls to combat racism: Pledging to "oppose and address all forms of racism and discrimination" (ANA)
  • Calls to end systemic racism: Opposing the "institutional structures and processes that can block openness and prevent change" (AAN)
  • Calls to stand by or support those working against racism or discrimination: Calling for "action to change structures and policies that have enabled and permitted senseless violence to occur" (AAN)
  • Calls for respect for all persons: Speaking "with one strong voice as leaders and role models of compassion and empathy for our patients, families, communities and most importantly towards one another" (ANA)

The researchers then analyzed position statements by top-ranked US schools of nursing. Of 32 schools of nursing included in the review, 18 had issued statements on racism. Most were "well-aligned" with national statements, addressing at least two and up to six of the key themes.

However, the school of nursing position statements varied significantly. Although most addressed systemic racism, several avoided comments that might be considered "controversial" – such as references to White supremacy as the foundation of racism, support for protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, and calls for substantial policing reforms.

"[W]hile position statements are a viable approach to the public assertion of commitment to anti-racist reforms by schools of nursing, it remains unclear if and how such statements can promote meaningful and measurable changes," Dr. Knopf and colleagues conclude. "These calls must be accompanied by efforts that support lasting reform."

Click here to read “A Review of Nursing Position Statements on Racism Following the Murder of George Floyd and Other Black Americans.”

DOI: 10.1097/JNC.0000000000000270

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