Racism widespread in nursing: 6 new survey findings

Racism and discrimination — from both patients and colleagues — are widespread in the nursing industry, but few nurses report such incidents, new survey findings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed. 

A non-probability sample of 980 U.S. nurses were surveyed from March 23, 2022, to April 7, 2022. The survey was conducted on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation by the McCabe Message Partners and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. 

Six key findings: 

Prevalence and reporting

1. Nearly 80 percent of nurses said they have witnessed or experienced discrimination from patients, and 60 percent from colleagues. Overall, Black/African American nurses were most likely to have seen or experienced racism from both patients (88 percent) or colleagues (72 percent). 

2. About 40 percent of nurses indicated they have talked about incidents of racism or discrimination with their supervisors, though fewer than 1 in 4 formally reported such incidents. 

3. While the prevalence was still high, nurses working in a physician's office or clinic were less likely to have witnessed or experienced racism than those working in nursing homes or hospitals. 

Nursing school culture

4. Forty-three percent of nurses said their nursing school had a culture of racism and/or discrimination. More than half of respondents also indicated a need for more training around racial bias/stereotypes in healthcare and diversity, equity and inclusion within nursing schools. 

Where improvements could be made

5. Most nurses said their organizations prioritize DEI initiatives around patient outcomes and staffing, but pointed to a need for further training and investment. 

6. About 80 percent of nurses said zero-tolerance workplace discrimination policies, clear consequences for reported incidents and reporting anonymity would improve organizations' ability to retain a diverse nursing staff.

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