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Discrimination in Nursing

Nobody talks about it. Ever.

Sure, we talk about how patients face discrimination and the impact on their health. Some schools might even teach about the institutional and structural aspects of society that reinforce racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and many other -isms. We do talk about how patients say things to us that we may consider to be offensive, and how to handle that.

But we don't talk about how we, as nurses, perpetuate discrimination and exclusion within our own profession and toward our patients. Here's a few examples of stories I've heard over the years.

A South Asian nurse manager told one of her African-American nursing assistants that she needed to fix her hair because she looked like she came from the jungle.

A Jewish nurse was working in a hospital in an area where there weren't a lot of Jewish people. During Hannukah, she wanted to put up a Menorah on her unit amidst all the Christmas decorations so she could clelebrate her faith like everyone else. The other staff members made her life hell, criticizing her religion. She left a few months later.

A new graduate nurse witnessed an experience nurse call a patient a sinner and drop to her knees to pray for the patient in front of them. The patient was an Athiest.

A team of ICU nurses found out that all the male nurses on their unit made 50 to 75 cents more per hour than the female nurses. When confronting the manager, she justified it saying that the men negotiated better, even when she had told many new female hires that starting salaries were non-negotiable.

We can't change things if we can't talk about them. Share your stories by posting in the comments below.

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