May 7, 2013, 11:00 AM, Posted by Adejoke Ayoola
Adejoke Ayoola, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor with the Calvin College Department of Nursing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.
Nurses in the United States are caring for a progressively more diverse population. In 2008, ethnic and racial minority groups accounted for about one third of the United States population. According to the United States Census Bureau, people from ethnic and racial minority groups— namely Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander—will together outnumber non-Hispanics over the next four decades. Minorities, now 37 percent of the U.S. population, are projected to comprise 57 percent of the population in 2060. The total minority population would more than double, from 116.2 million to 241.3 million over the period (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). So it is essential to have a nursing workforce that will reflect the population of the United States so as to deliver cost-effective, quality care and improve patients’ satisfaction and health outcomes, especially among ethnic and racial minorities.
The importance of promoting diversity in the nursing workforce is acknowledged by various nursing agencies and health organizations, including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN, 2013). Diversity in the nursing workforce provides opportunities to deliver quality care which promotes patient satisfaction and emotional well-being.
When I take my students to the hospital for their clinical rotations in acute care, I often assign those who are Spanish-speakers to Spanish-speaking patients. It has often been a win-win situation for both my students and the patients. Recently we cared for a Hispanic patient who did not speak English and had just given birth to her first baby. Her face lit up when my student spoke to her in Spanish! There was no one else with the woman, so the student’s ability to interact with her in a language she understood made a big difference. We noticed positive progress in the patient’s emotional and physical state as a result of her interaction with the student during the shift.