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Racial Bias In Nursing

Racial Bias in the nursing profession is a huge problem; both in nursing education and in practice. Interestingly, this is a topic many have discussed for years, but very little progress has been made in addressing the problem. As I started to write my dissertation for Capstone, I was taken aback... I could not beleive the information I was finding, trends that went back years... as far back as the early 90's, yet not much had changed. My research on this topic revealed the racial bias facing nurses in the United States is present on a Global scale. Some of the common themes that started to emerge were:

  1. Mental decline and decline in overall health with the minority nurses who were subjected to these biases on a daily basis.

  2. Nurses not reporting the issues beacuse they "feel nothing will be done about it" because "HR, administrators, and leaders dont care."

  3. Nurses who take on the mentaility of changing their appearance and behaviors to conform to the norms in their workplace or in an attempt to fit in.

  4. Nurses who work harder than their White counterparts, yet are passed up for promotions or have their views and input silenced.

Some of the cases I relied on were cases filed by Nurses against the hospitals they worked in. Some of these cases were:

Akosile v. Armed Forces Ret. Home, 938 F. Supp. 2d 76 (D.D.C. 2013), two of the charges against the employer were discrimination and hostile work environment. The holding in this case was for summary judgement for the defendant, because the plaintiff failed to provide evidence to establish discrimination, or a hostile work environment existed.

For the discrimination charge, the plaintiff alleges the following adverse employment actions: (1) placed on administrative leave by supervisor and the decision to do so is based solely on the supervisors account of the incident between supervisor and plaintiff, (2) plaintiff claims was not paid during this time of administrative leave, despite pay being paid to others who were placed on administrative leave, (3) plaintiff alleges not being given proper notice prior to a change in shifts from evenings to day shift; and (4) plaintiff claims defendant denied a transfer request to another unit.

While the charges brought against the employer in this case were not founded, it does align with the other resources to establish a pattern of concerns being reported and will help to identify and understand what the true barriers are for minority nurses and nursing students in healthcare. While many of the ported concerns do not rise to level of summary judgement for the plaintiff, are the actions by the employers correct and what more can be done to garner a better working relationship between healthcare facilities and minority workers in healthcare.

Another case was Ellis v. CCA of Tennessee, LLC, 650 F.3d 640 (7th Cir. 2011).

In this case, the plaintiffs allege hostile work environment and discrimination based on race. While none of the claims were substantiated, the allegations are ones which should be looked at when attempting to determine the racial biases being faced by minority nurses. Books being used by management to reference “monkeys” as a “workplace problem”, confederate flags being displayed by other workers, and a change in shifts which separated a single shift made up of primarily black women, is indeed a negative perception to the workforce.

Since the holdings in this case were not favorable for the plaintiff, the allegations created a real feeling of for the plaintiffs. It is also possible that these situations could have been handled differently?

It is clear to see the issues outlined in these cases put real physical and emotional burdens on the employees who have to live these experiences on a daily basis. Healthcare organizations and the bodies who oversee nursing really need to do better. It is 2023... what do we need to do to really make a change!

Choose your own Adventure: Racial Bias in Nursing © 2023 by Courtney Wingo is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

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