Survey: 63% of nurses say they’ve experienced racism in the workplace

“I have been called the ‘n’ word by multiple patients on multiple occasions. … I have been called ‘colored’ by a nurse manager.”

That’s just one response to a survey by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing, which found widespread racism within the nursing profession.

“My colleagues and I braced ourselves for these findings. Still, we are disturbed, triggered, and unsettled by the glaring data and heartbroken by the personal accounts of nurses,” American Nurses Association president Ernest J. Grant said in a statement. “We are even more motivated and committed to doing this important work justice. Racism and those individuals who do not commit to changing their ways but continue to commit racist acts have absolutely no place in the nursing profession.”

The survey, which was done by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing, enlisted more than 5,600 nurses. Responses also revealed:

  • 57% of nurses said they have challenged racism in the workplace.
  • 63% of nurses said they have personally experienced an act of racism in the workplace, with the transgressors being either a peer (66%), patients (63%) or a manager or supervisor (60%).
  • 69% of Hispanic respondents reported personally experiencing racism.
  • 73% of Asian nurses reported experiencing racism.
  • Half of all nurses surveyed said there is “a lot” of racism in nursing.
  • Black nurses most often experienced racism at the hands of a leader (70%), followed by their peers (66%) and finally, patients (68%).
  • Black nurses were the most likely to report experiencing racism, with 92% of Black nurses responded reporting personally experiencing racism.
  • More than 50% said efforts to challenge racism have had no impact in the workplace.

More than three-fourths of Black nurses surveyed said they experienced racism in the workplace, and it has negatively affected their professional well-being.

“Structural and systemic practices that allow the racist behaviors of leaders to continue to go unaddressed must be dismantled,” said Commission co-lead and National Black Nurses Association president and CEO Martha A. Dawson, DNP, RN, FACHE. “As cliché as it sounds, it starts at the top. Leaders must be accountable for their own actions, set an example for their teams and create safe work environments where there is zero-tolerance for racist attitudes, actions, behaviors, and processes. Leaders must also create a climate that gives permission and support to dismantle institutional policies and procedures that underpin practice inequities and inequalities.”

On a social media post about the survey, many nurses commented on their lack of surprise at the findings.

“I know if we told our stories on a public platform the world would be shocked how segregated, hostile and racist nursing is,” _blkgirlmagicrn wrote.

“I remember interviewing for an ICU position. One of my classmates got the position. I’m like how?!?! She had the lowest scores in class, took 3 times to pass boards. I knew the reason,” baronness_de_bacon wrote.

“The next generation of BIPOC nurses deserve more than performative activism and empty words that continue to yield no progress toward structural changes within the nursing profession or racial equity,” said Commission co-lead and member-at-large Daniela Vargas, MSN, MPH, MA-Bioethics, RN, PHN. “The breadth of the nursing profession through the Code of Ethics for Nurses holds all nurses accountable for calling out racism and replacing racist policies rooted in white supremacy with ethical and just policies that promote and implement accountability, equity, and justice for nurses and the communities that we serve.”

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