When I worked in the ICU, if a patient said, “I can’t breathe!” as a nurse you knew your timely intervention was required. Whether it’s to change their position, put them on oxygen or assist them to breathe by other interventions, your timely action was required. You don’t choose your patient depending on tribe, race, or religion. A patient is a patient. A little more than a week ago you witnessed a police officer bend on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes leading to his death. This was after he told the officer he couldn’t breathe. Nursing does not exist in a bubble. It is affected with our normal day to day lives, everything affects nursing. Does racism affect the healthcare sector and specifically nursing?
The American Association of College of Nursing in 2018 reported that 25% of nurses in America were from the minority community. The UK National Health Service in January 2020 reported 20.7% of its workforce. These are just examples to show that the minority race in these countries are vital to their healthcare systems. Anything that affects these communities affects the nurses from there. The nurse is a brother, sister, mother, father and comes from a community.
Nurse migration from African, Asia and Latin America to the developed countries has doubled in the last 5 years. This is mainly because of better pay as opposed to poor working conditions at home. They have gone to look for better opportunities but it turns out to be a death trap. The nurse doesn’t feel safe anymore, as you will be identified by your skin color and not your profession. The COVID-19 pandemic has already put the nurse at strain, will you bear the other pandemic of race? The nurse will not perform their duties at optimum levels with racism hanging over your neck.
You will not get that job opening, promotion or scholarship because of your color. No one chooses where to be born. Therefore, no one should be subjected to discrimination because of color, race, tribe or religion. You may have better qualification for the floor/ward in-charge position, but you may not get it because of your color or tribe. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have nurses of color in leadership positions. You demand to be treated equally. You don’t choose your patients based on their color, tribe or religion instead categorize them depending on the disease or its severity. Therefore, demand to be treated as you treat your patients with equality and compassion.
The world can borrow a leaf from nursing on how to treat everyone equally. In nursing ethics you are taught beneficence- to do good, non-maleficence – do no harm. Application of just these two is enough to change the hate around. Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Speak against it openly and be the change you want to see. Let nursing teach the world of compassion and equality. You can nurse racism until it heals.