Decolonizing Nursing Education

From the September 23rd Panel Q&A

Q. Do you have recommendations for decolonizing nursing education given the fact that nursing faculty are predominantly white? I find that our arguments about being “gatekeepers” for the profession are inherently racist but I also find that challenging those arguments is met with a lot of resistance.
Bukola Salami
Bukola Salami

This is why it is important to continue to be anti-racist in nursing, rather than not being racist.  For each advancement that is made toward equity and anti-racism, there are always opposing forces (often in creative ways). We need to continue to advocate for diversity in the nursing profession and at all levels.  As someone once told me, nursing is like a cappuccino; it is white on top and black underneath.  We need to mix it up.  This means we need to take into consideration the underlying inequities that prevent the upward career mobility of BIPOC nurses. 

For example, many BIPOC researchers are often engaged in invisible work that is unrecognized and also deters their career progression.  These include providing advice and informal mentorship of BIPOC students, more service and community engagement, and being called upon to do unrecognized work.  We need to bring to light some of these work and challenge issues related to knowledge production in nursing.  We also need to challenge embedded inequities in the mentorship process.  People often mentor those who look like them, have similar interest and similar background.  The decolonization process must involve a critical reflection on our mentorship process, succession planning process and its embedded exclusionary practices. We also need to ensure we decolonize our promotion process. Anti-racism needs to be included as a standard of practice and part of our ethical framework in the nursing profession.  At the current time, we tend to overly emphasize culture as a determinant of health rather than racism as a determinant.  Many standards of practice, entry into practice frameworks, and ethical frameworks do not have the word race in it but rather emphasize culture rather than race.  An emphasis on racism shifts the blame from victims of the colonial process.  We also tend to emphasize inequities experienced by patients rather than embedded inequities in our profession which also has implications for population outcomes.  The current COVID 19 pandemic has highlighted these inequities in the nursing profession and implications for population health.  Blacks are more likely to be diagnosed with COVID 19 infection.  There are structural issues that contribute to these — one of which is the structural inequities in the nursing profession where BIPOC individuals are concentrated in the lower level of the profession.  Indeed racism has become a public health emergency and central issue during the COVID 19 pandemic as we have seen the effects of racism on population health outcomes.

To directly answer your question, a central way to decolonize nursing education with nursing faculty being predominantly white is to ensure anti-racism is embedded into entry to practice frameworks, Faculty promotion policies, and nursing standards of practice.

Daniel Suárez-Baquero
Daniel Suárez-Baquero

The academy and faculty are predominantly white, the schools of nursing must open their doors to POC faculty. However, representation is not enough, we must develop programs aimed to make POC faculty feel welcomed and heard. The first step is to recognizes the disparities in tenure track between white and POC professors, even including immigrant scholars who can’t apply to NIH grants. For example, when I was looking for a postdoc position and I brought up the disparities I found when trying to find opportunities as an international scholar, in contrast to all the available options for residents and citizens, a professor said to me “this is how it is”… I refuse to that idea, it can be better for all of us

Nursing requires an identity turn that allows the historically minoritized population to be recognized as equals within the discipline.

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