The Undeniable Truth On Racism in Nursing

I started in nursing as a little girl when my mom would prepare a pot of soup and corn bread for us to eat and then take what was left to the elderly in our neighborhood. She would say when I get to their home to clean up the dishes and pick up any clutter in the room but do not accept any money. As a child I was obedient to follow my mothers instructions but really wanted the money even if it was a nickel. Funny, as I grew up these instruction were so instilled inside me that money was never an issue when it came to serving the sick.

I don’t know if nurses in the 60’s really cared about the sick. When I was in High School I was taken under the wings of older nurses who showed me the way when I was just a teenager doing a work-study project. I never heard them (nurses) complain as I hear nurses today. I am sure there were many issues but I never heard them.

When I set out to go to nursing school this is when the reality set in that unfair choices were made between persons of color and Caucasians to be accepted as a student in nursing. If a person was very fair skinned she would be most considered before one of a darker skin tone if non other Caucasian qualified. I was so naive to all of the prejudices of this world I never thought my skin color would be a factor of taking care of the sick.

Being a Vietnam-Era Veteran there was some bullying but I advocated for all races for we all Americans and should not have allowed personal issues occupy our minds during this perilous time. I recall a time when I was assigned as a nurses aid to a Caucasian woman. She screamed so loud that she did not want me to touch her and to get her a white nurse. I could have been affected by this but I went to my charge nurse to let her know of the patient’s request. The nurse had gone in to speak with the patient and I resumed care of this patient.

I have often reminded myself that each of us are the product of what we have been taught (childhood especially) and that each of us can sometimes undo those lessons (of hatred toward each other and not necessarily skin color). There are many issues that arose while on this journey – not with patients and their families, but with peers and doctors. We tend to turn on ourselves but not quite sure why because the opportunities are available whether it is school, promotions or change in departments or facilities.

As many nurses have mentioned in this article, nursing is not for them, and only that person can recognize and identify the disconnect and make the change. It is not wise to be-little such a benevolent occupation that has not been given its proper monetary worth, for we all at one time in our lives will become the patient.

I believe what my mother was trying to convey to me by not accepting the money is that there is no amount of money that can be given for true service. Og Mandino wrote in his book entitled, University of Success, “that all infractions of love and equity in our social relations are speedily punished. They are punished by Fear. While I stand in simple relations to my fellowman, I have no displeasure in meeting him. We meet as water meet water, or as two currents of air mix, with perfect diffusion and interpretation of nature. But as soon as there is any departure from simplicity and attempt at halfness, or good for me that is no good for him, my neighbor feels the wrong; he shrinks from me as far as I have shrunk from him; his eyes no longer seek mine; there is war between us; there is hate in him and fear in me.”

If the scriptures are correct, we reap what we sow, then the prudent nurse works with the expectancy of reaping a harvest of good returns. One who is frustrated and corrupt in their thoughts is like a herd of cattle seen running with no sense of direction just running toward the shadows of movement. I love my job and have advanced in education. I have kept up with the newest technologies. I pride myself in educating and empowering patients and their family members on the disease process and the plan of care for their visit into the Emergency Room.

You see, in spite of Administration, peers, doctors or media my plan is to do the will of all of our prayers and that is to save ourselves from the damaging thoughts of ourselves which corrupts our bodies through drugs (OTC, prescribed, and herbal), tobacco use, alcohol consumption and all of the tainted lies we have told ourselves or agreed with other about our self. So with this huge assignment I don’t waste time in what people think or if they want to pay me the correct wages for I will reap all that I have sown. For the nurses who forgot their purpose I say to you be encourage and get up and start again with this message, for their will always be a place for you amongst the sick to care for even when you are sick but all will be well with you in the end.