Academic journal article Journal of Theory Construction and Testing

Critical Race Theory as a Lens for Exploring Inclusion and Equity in Nursing Education

Academic journal article Journal of Theory Construction and Testing

Critical Race Theory as a Lens for Exploring Inclusion and Equity in Nursing Education

Article excerpt

"However important they are, good intentions and awareness are not enough to bring about the changes needed in educational programs and procedures to prevent academic inequities among diverse students. Goodwill must be accompanied by pedagogical knowledge and skills as well as the courage to dismantle the status quo" (Gay, 2010, p. 14).T

A diverse and culturally competent nursing workforce is essential to meet the changing demographics in the U.S. The 2010 Future of Nursing Report calls for an increase in ethnic and racial diversity in the nursing workforce, highlighting the unique perspectives of ethnically and racially diverse healthcare providers and their contributions to the advancement of the nursing profession and enhanced health outcomes (Institute of Medicine). The profession of nursing, comprised primarily of white females, does not reflect the diversity in the population. In 2012, racial and ethnic persons represented 37% of the total population in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012) yet ethnically and culturally diverse nurses represented only 19% of registered nurses (American Association of Colleges of Nurses, 2014).

Recruitment and retention of diverse and culturally competent nursing students continues as a mandate among healthcare stakeholders to address a growing diverse population and issues of health equity (Amaro, AbriamYago, & Yoder, 2006). The percentage of minority students enrolled in basic RN programs in 2012 was 26%, a decline from 29% in 2009 (National League for Nursing, 2012). Further, many of these students will not complete nursing school where attrition rates are high for students of color. Dropout rates for nursing students of color in community colleges range from 18% to 20% (Alvy, 2010). A critical examination of the diversity gap in nursing is essential. Experiences of nursing students of color and the influence of faculty and peers on those experiences are not addressed well in the nursing literature. The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to illuminate the education experiences of nurses of color. An understanding of the experiences of nursing students of color while navigating the educational system can provide insight for nurse educators, who desire, and perhaps struggle, to meet the learning needs of their students from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds.

Multiple factors contribute to lack of diversity in the profession of nursing. Numerous educational barriers for students of color have been noted in the literature. Despite high performance and achievements, educators in elementary to higher education classrooms exhibit lower expectations for students of color than their white counterparts and provide fewer opportunities for advancement (Gay 2010; Howard, 2010; Sullivan Commission, 2004; Tenenbaum & Ruck, 2007). Institutional racism generates inequities and affects recruitment and retention of students of color. Discriminatory admission processes (Sullivan Commission, 2004) and the use of standardized testing for admission to schools of nursing (Gardner, 2005; Marbley, Bonner & Berg, 2008; Sullivan Commission, 2004) creates unsurmountable barriers to nursing school entrance for students of color. For students of color admitted into schools of nursing, an inhospitable institutional climate coupled with bias and discrimination is difficult to overcome (Gardner, 2005; Giddens, 2008; Sullivan Commission, 2004; Yoder, 2001). Students as a group face obstacles that are both common and idiosyncratic. However, in order to provide an excellent and diverse nursing workforce, the additional layer of obstacles experienced by nursing students of color must be problematized in order to alleviate them.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) (2013) recognizes the strong connection between the numbers of culturally and ethnically underrepresented nurses in the nursing workforce and quality of culturally competent patient care. AACN mandated that more must be done to recruit nurses of color into the nursing workforce. …

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