How Diverse is the Nursing Profession?

If you’re considering a healthcare profession, you may be wondering about diversity in nursing. Since nurses serve and care for people from many different cultures and backgrounds, cultural diversity is seen as a real strength within the profession. It can be enlightening to find out how culturally diverse the profession is today, as well as what is being done to increase and strengthen that diversity.

Why Diversity Really Mattersdiversity

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 37 percent of the current population is made up of ethnic and racial minorities, including African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and other ethnic groups. That percentage is growing, with the total minority population in the U.S. expected to double by 2060. Clearly with such cultural diversity in the overall population, it’s important that the nursing workforce be comprised of nurses who represent many different types of people. It can make a world of difference for a patient to have a nurse who understands their culture, background and especially language.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has officially recognized that a diverse nursing profession benefits the population with better and more competent healthcare. That is why the nursing profession is working to recruit more nurses that accurately reflect the population, including more male nurses as well as nurses of both genders who represent minority populations.

The Current Level of Diversity

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSB) conducted a survey in 2013. The results showed that currently, about 19 percent of the nursing profession is made up of racial and ethnic minorities. Broken down further, the statistics indicate that African Americans make up 6 percent, with Asians in the nursing workforce also at 6 percent and Hispanics at 3 percent. Other minorities each comprise about 1 percent of the overall nursing population. Men now make up about 9.6 percent of the nursing profession, with the greatest number of men working as nurse anesthetists.

The Importance of Diversity in Nursing Faculties

Yet another survey shows this interesting result, that minority nurses generally pursue bachelors and higher education degrees at a greater rate than Caucasian nurses. That could bode well for future nursing faculties, although at this time only a little over 12 percent of full-time faculty members in nursing schools are minorities. It is hoped that more minority and male nurses with advanced degrees will decide to move into teaching, as they could become important role models for future generations of nurses from different backgrounds. In addition, having nurse researchers from different cultures and ethnic groups could be a tremendous asset in helping to look at and address the disparities in health outcomes, such as maternal mortality, among various ethnic groups.

At this time, the nursing profession is not as diverse as the overall population. It’s important that this issue be addressed, and efforts are being made to recruit and train more minority and male nurses. It has been recognized by a number of important associations and other healthcare communities that part of the key to improving both the nursing shortage and healthcare competency in the U.S. is to increase diversity in nursing.