On March 29, 2022, Elsevier, in partnership with the National League for Nursing (NLN), hosted the webinar panel, Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is Essential for Nursing Education. This is part of the NLN’s Taking Aim Initiative to address structural racism, diversity, equity, inclusion, implicit bias, and social justice.
The panel sought to share different perspectives, including those from faculty and students, on the importance of inclusion and diversity as it relates to the nursing and healthcare learning journey, as well as facilitate an open discussion on experiences, challenges, involvement, ideas, and the importance of topics at hand. Moderated by Kevonne Holloway, Managing Director for Global Content Partners at Elsevier, the panel shared their insights on how diversity and inclusion impact their program. Here are key takeaways from the discussion:
Students want to feel represented in the classroom
When asked about experiences that impacted their perspectives on diversity and inclusion, students agreed that content that is primarily geared toward the majority or is white-centric, makes it challenging to gain knowledge to provide the proper care to any patient.
Samira Barti, a senior nursing student at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, stated “when things are explained, like cellulitis or something that has a skin component, I wish I could see myself represented and feel connected to it, but I don’t”.
Action to make efforts toward inclusion is part of solving the problem. From the faculty perspective, as stated by assistant professor Dr. Traci Snedden at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, having availability to the right resources is important to represent everyone in their classroom.
What happens in the classroom impacts the clinical setting
Cultural competency plays into effective care for any patient that nurses serve. Ashley Sherman, a senior nursing student at North Carolina Central University, stated, “even as a student in nursing, once you get to the clinical field, you need to know how to care for people of different cultures and different backgrounds … in the clinical aspect if you’re not taught these things upfront and really practice it makes it really difficult.”
Having diversity in the clinical setting helps build that knowledge and provides room for collaboration as well. When discussing in the classroom, it’s important to discuss cultural competency but addressing topics related to cultural competency, like race, helps deepen the conversation. Senior nursing student at the University at Madison-Wisconsin Raquel Burnham stated “we need to not only allow for all patients to be treated through the way that we’re training, but we also want to make a space where students of color can learn in a classroom that is also made for them.”
Having courageous conversations about race can help prepare students
When asked about challenges the panelists have faced at their school to improve diversity and inclusion, lack of representation both with faculty and content was identified as a factor. Nursing department chair Dr. Yolanda VanRiel at North Carolina Central University emphasized that no one can be fully culturally competent, but there’s always room to learn. “When you’re teaching in the class and in clinical, it is important to be inclusive, accommodating, and willing to learn from other cultures.”
From the student perspective, fear of talking about race or racism can also be a challenge. Having courageous conversations in the classroom when questions are raised regarding health disparities or unjust treatment in clinical settings can help is important to prepare students. Ashley Sherman states, “in order to overcome [stereotypes in the clinical setting], you still need to have educators or people in place who can back you up or be able to explain those situations to you so that way you can still feel secure in what you’re doing.”
There is a need to increase diversity in nursing education and healthcare overall
In order to address the need to increase diversity in nursing education, consideration of the larger scope of healthcare should also be addressed. Diversity in the healthcare workforce is a challenge—bringing clinicians into teaching roles is the next step. Dr. Snedden stated “As we continue to expand our workforce and be more not diverse but inclusive so the implicit bias that some are mentioning isn’t taking these individuals not only out of clinical practice but out of any interested in contributing to further nursing education. I think all of us have a job there that’s really important.”
Strong nursing students can also provide future opportunities to continue the conversation in the nursing classroom around diversity and inclusion. As part of his role at his school as a mentor, senior nursing student Sheriff Mansaray at North Carolina Central University wants to work with other students to achieve success. Sheriff states “whenever you’re in school, if you don’t have anything that is blocking your way of understanding, if you don’t have any fear of any instructor or the people that are in charge, it opens your mind to gaining knowledge or to say what you think that is right … that is motivation [knowing] people are looking up to you and we have to fight and we have to work hard not to let them down”.
Although racial bias is bigger than nursing education, having open conversations with faculty and students the hope is that it will make an impact and translate into actionable change in the healthcare setting. Elsevier is dedicated to reducing racial bias in healthcare and research. Learn more about our mission and resources and policies Elsevier has in place to further support student and faculty needs in the classroom as it relates to inclusion and diversity.