In response to the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide awakening of the countless murders of people of color, a group of six nurses began working on a series of mini-documentaries that captured the experiences of racism in nursing in the United States. The “Reckoning with Racism in Nursing” docu-series was created to provide a safe space for nurses of color to know that they are not alone, according to Lucinda Canty, PhD, RN, one of the six creators of the series. Canty highlighted the lack of history of Black nurses taught in nursing school and the feeling of not being in the right profession. The documentary features interviews with 40 minority nurses, predominantly African American, who share their experiences with racism throughout their nursing careers.
Racism Experienced by Nurses
Several nurses in the documentary discussed racism experienced during their nursing education, including racist remarks from instructors and feelings of being the only or one of few racial/ethnic minorities in their cohort. Frankie Manning, a retired nurse, reflected on her experience in nursing school, where she was admitted as one of the third group of Blacks. One of the nuns who interviewed her did not see well and said, “We’re going to take you because we need Native nurses.” Manning realized early on that her experiences with racism in nursing school would only continue as she began to care for patients.
Nurses interviewed for the documentary also expressed racism directed toward them on the job. Canty reflected on some of her experiences while listening to these interviews. Manning recalled her first nursing job offer being taken away from her because she was Black. In the documentary, nurses recounted other experiences of racism, including differences in treatment provided to patients of color, being called racial slurs, and being told they were inferior to the White race.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) released a Racial Reckoning Statement in June 2022, acknowledging their purposeful exclusion of Black Nurses from 1916-1964, and that racism continues to occur in the workplace today. Canty noted that most Black nurses were not accepted into ANA because of their recommendation in 1965 for nurses to attain a baccalaureate degree in response to the increased complexity of managing patients.
The Reckoning with Racism in Nursing committee received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create more mini-documentaries from the interviews. The committee also plans to create a discussion guide to train others on how to discuss these interviews. Nurses of color may need to develop resilience to combat experiences of racism, and Canty and Manning each encouraged nurses and student nurses to seek resources within schools and nursing organizations. The committee hopes to continue moving forward the discussion and create a workshop to introduce the content and use it in any setting, including the university or hospital.
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