in response to letter by Derrick Smith on Quality Nursing Care Celebrates Diversity
Dear Mr. Smith:
In your letter you suggest "it is important to have a diverse population of health care professionals to help provide culturally sensitive care to patients." You have stated what I believe to be a critically important dream for the profession and I praise your efforts to live that dream into being.
As a profession we need to examine the both the obvious and equally important subtle barriers preventing culturally diverse persons from entering and staying in nursing. For example we need to remove financial barriers whenever possible. We also need to be mindful of the subtle prejudice extant in nursing faculties, health care facilities and patients. If, for example, a patient refuses care from a student from a different culture, how the faculty handles the issue can have tremendous impact on the student for either good or bad. If the faculty member makes another assignment without addressing the issue, the student undoubtedly will be injured. If the faculty handles it with sensitivity and openness, the student and others involved can be impacted positively. Positive change in the culture of that setting may occur. Noticing these opportunities to address prejudice and following through is key for bringing about the dream of a diverse profession.
Mr. Smith your letter calls for nursing to become a more diverse profession. It challenges us to examine why diversity isn't currently more evident in our profession and to take the necessary steps to move toward your dream. In the late 1940s, Katharine Densford then president of the ANA called for racial integration of the organization. Her leadership brought into reality her dream of a racially integrated ANA. Vision and leadership are critical to bringing about a culturally diverse nursing profession. Mr. Smith you have focused our attention on a most timely and important issue for nursing.
Barbara J. Leonard.