Importance of Diversity in Nursing Education

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Nurse educators play a key role in healthcare. These professionals instruct students in nursing theory and practice and use evidence-based methods to solve real healthcare challenges through education. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, such as Ohio University’s online MSN program provides the skills needed for effective nursing education.

Like many industries, diversity in the workplace is becoming increasingly important. While white females have traditionally dominated the nursing profession, there has been an increase in nurses with diverse backgrounds that reflects the U.S. population. According to the National League for Nursing, the idea of diversity encompasses “race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other attributes. It encourages self-awareness and respect for all persons, embracing and celebrating the richness of each individual. It also encompasses organizational, institutional, and system-wide behaviors in nursing, nursing education, and health care.”

Experts, including the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP), have found that a diverse group of healthcare providers improves access to and quality of care for minorities and underserved populations. By doing so, it improves outcomes for these patients. Encouraging diversity in nursing education among both students and instructors is one way to ensure that this goal is met.

Managing diversity is an increasingly important part of nursing education.

Why Does Diversity Matter?

As of 2016, the ethnic breakdown of the United States was 61.3 percent white (non-Hispanic/Latino), 17.8 percent Hispanic/Latinx, 13.3 percent black/African-American, 5.7 percent Asian, 1.3 percent Native American/Alaskan Native, and 2.6 percent reporting two or more races. In the same year, about 70 percent of all nurses were white — significantly more than the general population. African-American and Latinx populations in particular were underrepresented as a proportion of the nursing profession. The contrast was even more stark when considering nursing educators. In 19 states, the percentage of minority nursing students was at least double that of minority faculty.

This disparity can be a barrier to effective nursing education. Studies by respected organizations, such as the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce, show that educational outcomes improve when nurse educators reflect, value, and celebrate the diverse attributes of the student groups they teach. On the other hand, educational outcomes suffer when nurse educators fail to do these things. Diversity within an organization’s teaching staff is therefore a helpful tool for attracting, retaining, and training enthusiastic and skilled nursing students.

Self and Class Assessment

Any nurse educator, whatever his or her cultural or ethnic background, can lay the groundwork for culturally competent teaching with an honest self-assessment. Linda S. Smith, a member of the editorial board of Nursing2019, suggests that instructors ask themselves these types of questions:

  • What’s my cultural identity? How am I like or unlike my students?
  • What assumptions do I make about other cultural identities? How can I challenge these assumptions?
  • Do I respect diverse points of view during and outside of class?
  • Am I comfortable with students whose cultural identities differ from mine?
  • Do I inappropriately single out students possessing diverse characteristics with questions regarding that culture?
  • What alternative methods do I use to help or support diverse students?

A class assessment should follow this self-assessment. Smith suggests that educators may wish to give out a brief “Who Am I?” survey at the beginning of each term. Using such transcultural nursing assessment and intervention techniques, Smith says, “will improve student-faculty relationships, communication, and experiences.”

Diverse Instruction

As the term progresses, nurse educators require additional skills, techniques, and supports to deliver culturally competent instruction. Examples may include:

  • Creating a diversity-sensitive curriculum. A diversity-sensitive curriculum employs materials that represent a diverse nursing population in terms of culture, ethnicity, sex, and sexual orientation. Nurse educators can support this material by encouraging diverse working groups within the classroom and modeling respectful communication.
  • Providing appropriate feedback. Culturally competent nurse educators provide prompt, personalized, confidential, culturally sensitive, and constructive feedback during class, on written assignments, and during clinical rotations.
  • Handling inappropriate interactions. Bullying, rudeness, and insensitive comments, particularly those that involve intolerance for diversity, should be dealt with in a calm and constructive way. These interruptions can become teaching moments in the hands of a competent instructor.
  • Developing peer relationships. An academic environment that values and celebrates diversity within its teaching ranks helps diverse instructors to reach their full potential as educators.
  • Finding a mentor. Longtime minority staff members can be invaluable in helping novice minority educators to settle into their work because they have already navigated some of the challenges that the novices face.

Empowerment for All

Combining these types of tools with staff diversity helps organizations and individual educators deliver the best possible instruction. Regardless of an instructor’s background, culturally competent teaching methods empower future generations of nurses to perform skilled nursing care in an increasingly diverse world. Diverse and effective nurse educators are therefore essential to building a stronger and better healthcare industry.

Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program

Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program offers targeted instruction in nursing education as well as other areas of the nursing field. Potential MSN degree benefits are numerous, including better pay, better hours, expanded career options, and much more.

For more information about Ohio University’s online MSN program, visit the program webpage today.

Recommended Reading:

Leading the Next Generation: The Role of the Nurse Educator

The New Normal: Men in Nursing

A Blueprint for Becoming a Nurse Educator


Diversity definition – National League for Nursing

Benefits of diversity among healthcare providers – National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP)

Ethnic breakdown of U.S. and minority faculty – Nursing2019

Educational outcomes and benefits beyond the classroom – Sullivan Commission

Assessments and instruction techniques – Nursing2019