The Role of Nurse Educators in Addressing Health Disparities

Addressing health disparities is a many-faceted challenge requiring systemic changes in areas like population health, urban planning and education — to name just a few. Nurses can care for and advocate for individuals most vulnerable to these disparities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal levels of health for socially disadvantaged populations.

As educators in their respective fields, nurses should hold each other accountable for their interactions with patients and foster a welcoming environment. As the publication Collaborative Momentum notes, the goal of a nurse is to be available to all their patients, regardless of their beliefs or economic status.

If a patient claims they are suffering from an illness or high levels of pain, the nurse should be there to listen and speak up on their behalf. Nurses should not jump to conclusions or disregard their patients’ statements based on generalizations. Rather, they should provide healthcare that embraces the needs and concerns of patients’ various demographic backgrounds in a fair and balanced method.

Enhancing Diversity in Nursing Education

Due to these disparities within the healthcare system, nursing education organizations emphasize the need for diversity, equity and inclusion in nursing and healthcare at large.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau via the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), underrepresented populations will become the majority in the U.S. by 2043. Members of ethnic and racial minority groups make up over one-third of the U.S. population but only 19.2% of registered nurses (RNs).

To address the needs of patients, it is crucial to change the dynamics of nursing from within. This process entails recognizing the experiences of nurses of color and the workplace and the cultural biases and prejudices that impact them.

As Collaborative Momentum notes, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has led the organization of the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing by exploring the experiences of nurses of color to develop an action-oriented approach across the spectrum of education, practice, policy and research.

Making Healthcare More Equitable

In order for nurses to ensure a more equitable healthcare environment, professionals in the field must consider the following factors, as outlined by an AACN report titled The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education:

  • Cultural competency. Professional nurses must demonstrate a sensitivity to and understanding of various cultures to provide high-quality care across settings.
  • Enrollment and graduations in baccalaureate and graduate programs in nursing Though nursing schools have made strides in recruiting and graduating nurses that reflect the patient population, they must do more to achieve equal representation.
  • Recruiting faculty. Recruiting more faculty from minority populations and varied backgrounds is just as crucial as attracting diverse nursing students.
  • Launching programs. Academic leaders are working to address this need by identifying minority faculty recruitment strategies, encouraging minority leadership development and advocating for programs that remove barriers to faculty careers.

Putting all of these into motion will contribute to incremental gains in addressing health disparities. As a result, nurses will be able to relate to and commit to the patients they serve.

For example, patients will feel reassured knowing their healthcare providers will deliver care with the attention they both require and deserve. This connection is essential, as an increasing number of patients just want to be “heard” and listened to. Additionally, more nurses will be equipped with the tools necessary to form strong bonds with patients from different cultures and backgrounds.

Classroom Teaching Strategies at William Paterson University

Nurses enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Nursing Education online program at William Paterson University will contribute to enhanced diversity within the healthcare system. This program allows nurses who are committed to the advancement of the nursing practice to thrive within the healthcare community — as well as in academic and service institutions.

Specifically, in the Classroom Teaching Strategies course, nurses will learn the skills needed to be effective nurse leaders in various healthcare environments. This seven-week course focuses on multicultural issues in teaching that allow for a more equitable and diverse system of healthcare.

Other areas of concentration include learning theories, learning styles and health literacy. Nurses will be required to complete 170 supervised hours in teaching environments where they can tap into the skills they have learned and put them into practice.

While there is no easy solution to addressing health disparities, nurses who choose a nursing education path have the power to make great strides in mitigating their occurrence.

Learn more about William Paterson University’s Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education online program.

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