Minority Nurses' Experiences on the Job

By Seago, Jean Ann; Spetz, Joanne | Journal of Cultural Diversity, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview
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Minority Nurses' Experiences on the Job


Seago, Jean Ann, Spetz, Joanne, Journal of Cultural Diversity


Abstract: While a number of studies have explored questions regarding career path and job satisfaction among nurses, the data rarely are examined for distinct racial and ethnic groups. Furthermore, we have not found any study that has explored the relationship between ethnicity and factors that foster job satisfaction among nurses. The purpose of this study is to describe the work environment, job advancement, and promotion experiences of registered nurses in California who self-identify an ethnic affiliation. We tried to determine if minority nurses faced more ana/or different barriers to career advancement than white nurses. Overall, we found that minority nurses have positive views of their opportunities and workplaces. They are more likely than white nurses in the sample to agree that they have opportunities to learn new skills at work, to think their job duties match their skills, and to believe they have opportunities to advance at their workplace.

Key Words: Minority Nurses, Nursing, Experiences on the Job, Job Advancement, Promotion Experiences, Work Environment

California's diverse population is not reflected in its nursing workforce, especially at senior and executive levels. For example, while Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans make up 32.9%, 6.2%, and 11.6 % respectively (for a total of 50.4%) of the state's population (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004), they account for only 40.4% of the registered nurses in the state (California Board of Registered Nursing, 2004). Whites, on the other hand, who account for 46.6% of California's population (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004), comprise 61.5% of the state's registered nurses (California Board of Registered Nursing, 2004). There are increasing concerns about the quality of health care for minority populations among lawmakers, policymakers, and health professionals. Some researchers and advocates argue that lack of racial and ethnic concordance between health professionals, particularly physicians, and their patients contribute to the poor quality of care received by minorities (Janz, Wren, Copeland, Lowery, Goldfarb, & Wilkins, 2004; King, Wong, Shapiro, Landon, & Cunningham, 2004; Saha, Arbelaez, & Cooper, 2003; Stevens, Shi, & Cooper, 2003). If evidence for this poorer quality of care is uncovered in relationship to nursing care, the disparity between the ethnicity of the patient population and the ethnicity of the nursing population must be addressed.

Most research on the paucity of minorities in nursing focuses on differences in educational attainment and the lack of role models and mentors. These factors have a profound influence on who enters the nursing field (Fitzsimons & Kelley, 1996; Memmer & Worth, 1991; Rodgers, 1990; Snyder & Bunkers, 1994). Little is known, however, about the experiences of minority nurses once they have entered the workplace (Buerhaus & Auerbach, 1999; Seago, 2000; Villarruel & Peragallo, 2004). While a number of studies-notably those analyzing the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses and the California Board of Registered Nursing Survey of Registered Nurses in California-have explored questions regarding career path and job satisfaction among nurses, the data rarely are examined for racial or ethnic differences. Furthermore, we have been able to find no study that has explored the relationship between ethnicity and factors that foster job satisfaction among nurses. Relationships with physicians and coworkers, the redress of grievances, opportunities for learning and advancement, and the ability to make recommendations regarding patient care have been studied for nurses as a group, but not for specific ethnic groups.

Two studies provide some evidence of nurse job dissatisfaction related to ethnicity. An exploratory descriptive study, using interviews and focus groups, of nine nurses who filed complaints regarding their employers in Canada found that minority nurses may be subject to discrimination that prevents their advancement in the field.

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