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Racism, Nursing, and Strategies for Change

Written by: Dr. Barbara Broome
Published on: Oct 15, 2021

Dr. Barbara Broome
Dr. Barbara Broome

In a 2020 Gallup poll (), Americans again ranked nurses as some of the most honest and ethical professionals and identified nursing as one of the most caring professions. Honesty, ethics, and caring are powerful identifiers. Indeed, nursing is a profession in which individuals are apt to display these qualities. However, one must be careful to not forget that the personal values and beliefs of individual nurses and the environments in which they work contribute to the dynamic relationship between individual beliefs and professional attributes within the profession of nursing.

The public perceptions of nursing, individualism, and environmental factors set the tone for what has become a topic of discussion: racism. Racism has always and continues to be a part of American culture, even though many believe that we have achieved fairness, opportunity, and respect for people of color. Others believe that if racism exists, it is rare and, therefore, no longer an issue. I am a woman of color, and I have experienced and continue to experience racism in many ways. Racism is “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capabilities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (). This definition includes many powerful words: “fundamental determinant,” “human traits and capabilities,” and “inherent superiority.” The beliefs and concepts captured by these words can have a profound effect on self-esteem, personal goals, and belief in future success.

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