Leli Pedro, assistant professor, College of Nursing:
"Inadequate numbers of minority nurses directly influence the nursing profession, the education of future professionals and the quality of health care. With increasing diversity in the population, health care issues become more complex. Representation of ethnic minority nurses is critical for quality care in serving diverse populations.”
The College of Nursing at the University of Colorado exists to educate students, to pursue new knowledge to improve the health of individuals, families, and communities and to provide clinical care and service to patients and the greater community of Colorado. Within the college are students who are learners, faculty and staff who are employees, knowledgeable within their areas of expertise; each one interfacing with one another in a complex gestalt of interactions.
Diversity informs the research and scholarship agenda. Diversity is critical to the student experience and to the practice of nursing. The incorporation of a multi-culturally oriented curriculum is vital in an era of demographic change such as we are experiencing in the United States at this time. An environment that is welcoming to all who come here to learn, to teach and to work is a key component to all aspects of creating a diverse college.
The faculty, staff and administration of the College of Nursing believe that professional schools have an obligation to society to prepare professionals who can care for the diverse populations that exist within our nation. This can be accomplished by exposing our students and staff to a diverse group of individuals and ideas. The college aspires to be a leader in creating a diverse and multicultural community, serving as a model for other schools of nursing at large.
The Importance of Diversity
Many factors are important when considering the question – why diversity? Among them is the influence of diversity or the lack of it on the education of students, the work of faculty and staff and the quality of clinical care. In the American Academy of Nursing-sponsored monograph, Cultural Diversity in Nursing: Issues, Strategies, and Outcomes, Beverly Malone (Malone, 1997) writes that diversity in nursing is a moral imperative: it is the right thing to do. Including nurses from a variety of backgrounds is just, and providing safe and comprehensive care across a populace of demographic and behavioral variability is the central aim of the profession. A second reason behind the movement to discuss and address diversity in nursing is the nature of the existing nursing workforce. Workforce diversity is viewed as a successful business strategy to unlatch the doors of organizational entry that once barred the perspectives and participation of nurses of different races, ethnicities and genders. Especially in times of a nursing shortage, drawing ability and participation from all segments of the prospective workforce strengthens the workforce numerically and in the capacity to provide nursing care across the spectrum of patients. A third reason to support diversity in nursing is that nurses of any and all backgrounds care for a diverse populace. “Valuing diversity means being responsive to a wide range of people unlike oneself” (Carnevale & Stone, 1994 and Malone, 1997).
The practice of nursing, like that of dentistry, medicine and pharmacy, occurs in the world where there is substantial diversity of populations to be served by the college. This includes Colorado, which becomes more diverse with each decade. It is important that students be educated to practice within such a diverse community and that diverse students be admitted to achieve this goal. An important learning tool is for students of diverse cultures to be included so that they can share their rich and different experiences. Students, faculty and staff benefit when they can have in their everyday environment those who represent the rich and diverse cultures of Colorado.
Students look to faculty as educators and role models. In this regard there should be faculty who represent the differences of people who are recipients of health care and learners who wish to serve them. As much as a health professional’s education occurs by students learning from their teachers and researchers who pursue new knowledge, faculty members also serve as important models of expert clinical practice. Faculty members who are representative of diverse cultures are necessary to mentor students in providing culturally-competent care.
The extent to which individuals who are recipients of clinical care find the care provided as acceptable can be influenced by the understanding conveyed by the provider of the recipient’s care. Some people prefer to receive care from providers of the same gender or from nurses who are from or clearly knowledgeable about their culture. Studies on this topic are summarized in the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report, In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce, which highlights the importance of ensuring a workforce which focuses on the disparities of outcomes of health care delivery as it is currently constituted (In the Nation's Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce, 2004). Diversity among nursing faculty clinicians and the education of diverse students enhances the diversity of the future health care workforce. This in turn may help eliminate the disparities in the provision of health care services that occur today among racial and ethnic minorities.