Most of us have heard these two words, “representation matters”. In many industries like education, finance, media, or even construction, representation in healthcare matters. To identify with another individual because you see yourself in them can drive positive interactions and foster a sense of comfort and trust. Nurses have dominated as the most trusted profession in the U.S. for over 20 years. Nurses represent the largest group of the healthcare workforce and are essential to the healthcare system. Although true, Black Nurses are underrepresented in healthcare from specialty care areas to leadership roles, making it difficult to affect meaningful healthcare policy changes.
More specifically, Black Nurses in Indiana in 2021 were found to account for 5.1% of licensed registered nurses (RNs), meaning out of almost 82,000 licensed RNs in the state only about 4,100 identified as Black or African-American. Furthermore, when looking at those Black nurses who hold master’s degrees as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) only 2.9% are represented. This equates to a mere 94 Black APRNs out of about 3200 APRNs that practice in the state of Indiana. APRNs differ from RNs as their scope of practice allows for them to diagnose, treat, and prescribe if they have a collaborative physician agreement. APRNs serve in roles as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives.
Why are these statistics important and why do they matter, you may ask? Simply, Black Nurses need support! These numbers are below the national average of Black Nurses that are licensed and practicing across the United States, which is 6.7%. I would say Indiana has work to do. Research shows that diversity in healthcare and nursing improves quality of care, decreases healthcare costs, creates innovative ideas, and improves employee satisfaction. Bottom line, diversity improves health outcomes overall. When discussing health equity and social determinants of health, diverse nursing representation should be involved.
Let’s be clear, lack of representation in nursing is not just a Black nursing problem, it is a nursing problem! Despite the challenges that affect diversity in nursing, much can be done to advance and support Black Nurses. Promoting diversity should start at the education level, not only post-secondary nursing schools should be held accountable, but also secondary education institutions can play a role with youth, too. Additionally, promoting diversity in nursing would benefit in the form of guidance from experienced nurses at a mentorship level. Lastly, partnerships between Professional Organizations around the state and Black Nursing Organizations in Indiana can help with promoting diversity and driving an increase in the number of Black Nurses.
Overall, improving representation and promoting diversity in nursing matters. Together we must all do our part to influence change that improves health outcomes for all Indiana residents and represents the diverse populations we serve. Bringing awareness to the need for more support for Black Nurses in Indiana deserves acknowledgement as it is essential to improving overall health equity and decreasing health disparities.