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How Nurse Leaders Can Promote Diversity in Nursing

5 min readSeptember, 14 2023

Supporting diversity in nursing helps nurse leaders promote an open, inclusive environment that promotes teamwork, better addresses health inequities and improves patient-care provider relationships. By influencing their organization’s policies and actions, encouraging open communication on their team, and supporting awareness training and best practices across their organization, nurse leaders can be advocates for prioritizing diversity in nursing.

Why Is Diversity in Nursing Important?

Diversity in the nursing workforce provides opportunities for a broader understanding of demographic-specific nuances for care and treatment, and staff members can learn from one another’s diverse perspectives. A diverse nursing team can strengthen the quality of care they provide to their patients through open communication and collaboration.

Historically, nursing has not been a diverse and welcoming profession, which has caused moral suffering and physical harm and perpetuated systemic injustices and inequities. In a 2022 survey of 5,600+ nurses, 63% said that they have personally experienced an act of racism in the workplace. ANA is one of the leading organizations of the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing that focuses on how racism affects nurses, patients, communities, and health care systems. The Commission and ANA continue to create resources for nurses to address racism in the workplace.

Addresses Health Disparities

Specific ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic populations experience health inequalities at disproportionate rates. Research shows these inequities are associated with poorer treatment outcomes. For example, cancer-related deaths, infant and maternal mortality rates, and heart disease are health issues that disproportionately affect African American patients. LGBTQ+ community youths are at a higher risk for substance abuse and suicide. By being aware of and representing these and other populations susceptible to certain health issues, nurses can:

  • Be sensitive to a community’s needs.
  • Recognize the needs of patients.
  • Work toward turning the tide on health disparities.

Enhances the Work Environment

When nurse leaders reinforce an inclusive workplace where varied cultural representatives actively contribute, they foster innovation and a culture of openness, which benefits their staff and patients. Nurse leaders set the tone for intercultural respect, encouraging team members to share perspectives that can improve the patient-provider alliance. Being self-aware of unconscious biases, actively learning about their colleagues’ cultures and beliefs, asking for feedback, and creating an inclusive environment provide tremendous opportunities for growth, learning, and improvement.

Increases Community Engagement

Nurses from diverse backgrounds bring fresh perspectives and knowledge of the cultural customs and beliefs within the populations they serve. Community members will be more likely to engage in local events and services such as health screenings and vaccination clinics when they feel part of an inclusive health care system that understands their unique perspective. Cultural diversity in nursing gives patients more trust and confidence because they can better communicate and relate to their caregivers.

Barriers to Cultural Diversity in Nursing

Understanding the obstacles nurses from diverse communities may encounter in their daily lives can help reduce similar hurdles in the workplace. Some nurses may face a disproportionate economic burden regarding education costs. Others may experience micro- or macro-aggression from peers and patients. To alleviate the harm brought on by these experiences, nurse leaders can support their team with a zero-tolerance workplace violence program and establish avenues for open and honest discussion, such as internal support groups and mentorship programs. These efforts help foster confidence, camaraderie, and job satisfaction, which are essential to retaining nurses. Learn more about nurse retention strategies.

Strategies for Promoting Diversity in Nursing

Leaders must create a workplace that embraces diversity in nursing leadership and the nurse workforce, treating everyone as equals. Compassion and humility go a long way in fostering mutual respect and putting patients at ease. Let’s look at tangible steps nurse leaders can institute to ensure a health care setting that’s welcoming and inclusive.

Request a DE&I Statement

A nursing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) statement pinpoints an organization's explicit commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion for all employees. This statement establishes protocols to protect nurses from workplace discrimination and violence and holds everyone accountable for their actions. But it’s not enough to have a statement alone. Your organization’s commitment to DE&I must be fully implemented across all levels of the organization to be effective. Cultural competence training helps nurses strengthen their skills to meet their patients’ social, linguistic, and cultural needs. However, you must be mindful when evaluating any cultural training to ensure it doesn’t reinforce harmful or inaccurate stereotypes.

Diversify Your Recruitment Practices

Nurse leaders need inclusive recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies to build a strong, diverse team. Reevaluate recruiting processes to eliminate potential biases and advertise through various platforms using inclusive language.

A diverse audience of health care workers is seated in a lecture hall attending a lecture. A presenter is standing at the podium, with only their back and dark brown hair visible.

Establish Community Partnerships

Partner with local schools and universities to find cultural diversity in nursing education students. Look to established organizations in your community for additional resources, such as groups that support ethnic minority nurses. Nurse leaders should also consider initiating an internal diversity committee in their organization.

Lead by Example as a Role Model

Nurse leaders set the tone for their team's attitude by promoting inclusivity and eliminating bias. Facilitate open communication around complex topics like inequality and privilege. Think about cultural diversity in nursing education and professional development contexts to encourage best practices and build a supportive work culture. Be receptive to others’ perspectives and experiences and seek their feedback on creating a more inclusive environment. And treat everyone with fairness, empathy, and respect.

Promoting diversity awareness in nursing is essential for delivering unbiased, patient-centered care. Be an advocate, encourage collaboration, implement recruitment strategies to attract diverse candidates, and continuously learn and adapt to best practices for inclusivity.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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