Nurse Diversity: Why Representation Matters
Ensuring a more diverse nursing workforce is my hope for the future and my ongoing work. It is my song.
May 19, 2022 at 4:24 pm
Sometimes it’s hard to take on one more thing. It was the height of COVID and, like many in healthcare, I was working long hours and giving everything I had to my patients, my staff and my family.
When my coworker said, “You should audition to sing in the Northwell Health Nurse Choir,” my first thought was that I couldn’t take that on too. But then I thought about how this opportunity could elevate the role of nurses — especially Black nurses — and show the profession in a different light.
As a child, I didn’t see a lot of Black women in the medical community and certainly not in leadership roles. But it’s important that Black youth feel represented in the medical community, and in order for that to happen, they need role models. That visible diversity is so important, and it’s a big reason why I went into nursing, pursued a master’s degree to become a registered nurse practitioner in women’s health and why I ultimately decided to audition for the choir.
I quickly did an audition video of Adele’s “Someone Like You.” At that time, singing for just 30 seconds for an “audience” felt foreign; the pandemic stopped us from singing in church and I missed it more than I realized.
From that 30-second recording, an amazing journey unfolded. I joined the choir, performed a virtual concert for Nurse Heroes (a celebrity concert series) and then the choir was, quite unexpectedly, on our way to California to participate in America’s Got Talent. It was a national stage and we were bringing our songs to a far wider audience than any of us could have imagined.
The story of our choir of nurses, and our music, has brought hope, healing and a sense of community to many. The world needs song more than ever and it’s a privilege to have a unique platform to showcase the multi-dimensionality of being a nurse and a Black female healthcare leader.
People may not realize that nursing takes many forms. Sometimes as nurses we get boxed into the category of caring only for the sick, but there are multiple ways to care for people. In the hospital, we physically touch and heal. We also heal people with compassion, a sense of community, and a commitment to improving patients’ lives each and every day. We even heal people through song.
The last few years have been extra challenging for nurses and other healthcare professionals, and they have been equally challenging for many people in the Black community. We know all too well the health inequities that exist — the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black Americans; the unequal toll of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension; and the high rates of maternal mortality experienced by Black women.
Yet, we rarely hear about the need for diversity in the healing professions, including the nursing workforce. While there are more than 4 million nurses in the United States, only 6.7% identify as Black or African American.
We need to encourage young Black women and men to consider a career in nursing. America’s got talent, but it can only be realized when we are called upon to take a risk, to take on one more thing, to spend a few minutes — or even a few seconds — exploring a path we did not previously consider.
Ensuring a more diverse nursing workforce is my hope for the future and my ongoing work. It is my song. And I want as many of our young people to hear it as possible.
There are many paths to becoming a registered nurse: community college, vocational school and four-year universities. But it all starts with someone saying an encouraging word and reinforcing the need for representation in the healing professions.
As I pursue the next phase of my nursing career, I’ll continue to serve the community, do hands-on care, and teach and learn from patients and colleagues alike.
I’ll continue to sing and invite others to join me.