Many nurses have no idea how discrimination affects both their colleagues and their patients. While some nurses never have to experience discrimination firsthand, it is much more common than most healthcare workers might think.
Discrimination shouldn’t have any place in nursing. Nurses are entitled to respect and dignity on the job. Patients are entitled to fair treatment and respect from nursing staff. But what can be done about this persistent problem?
What Are Examples of Discrimination in Nursing?
Discrimination in nursing can go both ways. Nurses may experience discrimination in hiring practices and get passed over for positions and promotions. Or, patients may request a white nurse when they are assigned a nurse who is a person of color.
However, nurses can also be the source of discrimination. Many people don’t realize the underlying biases they carry with them, causing them to deliver different levels of care to the patients assigned to them. Nurses can also perpetuate discrimination against their peers, often without realizing what they are doing.
There are many types of discrimination that can affect nurses and their patients. Racism is a common and serious issue in nursing, affecting the quality of care patients receive and the well-being of nursing staff. Ageism, gender discrimination, and discrimination based on sexual orientation are also common problems.
Because discrimination can occur in different contexts, it’s important to understand how it can impact nurses and patients in different ways. A nurse facing discrimination from a peer will have a much different experience than one dealing with a patient who is perpetuating discrimination. Each situation will have a different effect on a nurse’s ability to work and their well-being.
Racism, Ageism, Gender Discrimination and their Effects on Care
Unequal treatment based on factors like race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability has a major impact on healthcare quality. In the United States, health disparities exist for many reasons, but most boil down to discrimination. Within the system, factors that are out of your control will dictate your experience as a patient or as a nurse.
There are two main sources of discrimination: institutional and individual. A healthcare institution may be discriminatory in the way they hire and promote their nursing staff. This takes a toll on deserving nurses who are unable to get promoted based on their race, age, or gender. An institution can also fail to protect its nursing staff from discrimination, whether from other staff or from patients.
Individual patients or nurses can also be the source of discrimination. A nurse who discriminates against a colleague might make their fellow nurses feel uncomfortable and unsafe. This affects the work environment and the overall quality of care the institution’s nursing staff can provide.
Patients who discriminate against nurses can also contribute to a hostile work environment. On the other hand, nurses who discriminate against patients due to their race, age, or gender may provide substandard care to these patients, affecting their outcomes.
Overall, discrimination has a major impact on patient care, regardless of its source. Both institutions and individuals must realize this and take steps to promote equality.
Unified Care for the Future
Stereotypes are harmful and often lead to discrimination. It’s important for all nurses and organizations to examine their own implicit biases and assumptions about different groups of people. Healthcare leaders have an even greater responsibility to spearhead these initiatives.
Training is important for preventing discrimination in healthcare. Nurses must support each other and understand how their behavior could affect their colleagues and patients. Many nurses are unaware of how much their words and actions affect others.
Institutions must also examine their policies surrounding discrimination. In order to provide high-quality care, all patients and nurses must feel safe and respected. Healthcare quality management is about more than just numbers—it’s about people too.
Healthcare leaders can’t shy away from diversity and anti-discrimination initiatives. They must ask uncomfortable questions, see the truth, and take input from those who are on the front lines.
Collaboration, willingness to create real change, and commitment are all key for reducing discrimination and making healthcare a friendlier atmosphere for all involved. If we want unified care for the future, it’s important to address the problem at every level.
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Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.