The Importance of Diversity in Nursing

By Jimmy Durham

When we think about nursing diversity, it may be easy to assume it's as simple as making sure there are a variety of ethnicities and ages and a balance of gender on staff. But it's so much more than that, and the benefits of diversity in the nursing profession are undeniable, ultimately resulting in overall better community healthcare. How important is diversity in nursing? And what benefits does it bring? Let's take a look.

Community-Wide Impact of Job (Dis)Satisfaction

Many sources have shown “nursing should be as diverse as the population that it serves" (Huston, 2014). In fact, the lack of diversity in nursing can negatively affect the quality of healthcare provided. Under-representation of minorities breeds discrimination and encourages stereotypes (Cordon, 2012), which creates healthcare disparity (Turk, 2014) and negatively impacts everyone from patients to staff and even healthy citizens in the outside community. Under-representation of minorities on staff may also result in patient care that lacks cultural sensitivity.

When there is a lack of diversity on staff, employees tend to be more dissatisfied with their work. This in turn contributes to compassion fatigue and burnout, and bullying in nursing as well as in other healthcare professions tend to rise from there as well, resulting in toxic work environments. All of that means high employee turnover and errors in care, which negatively impacts patients. Substandard care provided by professionals who lack the drive and, in some cases, the competence to provide high-quality healthcare can lead to potential patient harm, which may result in litigious action against the healthcare provider.

Additionally, when a healthcare facility is toxic and dysfunctional, otherwise healthy members of that community suffer from increased complications with typically uncomplicated illnesses, injuries and even preventative care screenings and procedures, such as colonoscopies.

Why Diversity in Nursing Matters

Diversity on a nursing staff contributes to superior care by offering different perspectives and approaches that are as different as the patient population being served. Diversity also bridges gaps in healthcare and increases job satisfaction. Additionally, a diverse nursing population leads to the sharing of innovative ideas and solutions to help advance the industry. A variety of backgrounds coming together to offer quality healthcare can improve community relations and contribute to an overall improvement of community health, which ultimately is the common goal, isn't it?

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Jimmy E. Durham, RN-BC, is a board certified registered nurse and writer with a strong background in primary and urgent care. He is based in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Jimmy on LinkedIn or Google+.