Increasing diversity in the nursing workforce presents a significant challenge. Like in other fields, underrepresented populations in nursing — such as racial and ethnic minorities — face barriers that can discourage their career pursuits. Such barriers may include inequities in education and socioeconomic status. Closing diversity gaps can help address part of this problem.
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, racial minorities make up only 19.2% of registered nurses (RNs) in the country, while racial minority groups accounted for 38% of the nation’s population as of 2014. This gap may partially explain the problem of healthcare inequity among patients from historically excluded groups.
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, racial minorities make up only 19.2% of registered nurses (RNs) in the country, while racial minority groups accounted for 38% of the nation’s population as of 2014
Providing resources for minority nurses can improve diversity in the field and lead to better patient care. On this page, readers can explore resources for underrepresented populations in nursing, including professional organizations and financial aid information.
Keep in mind, however, that the burden of increasing diversity in nursing — as in most professions — tends to disproportionately fall on underrepresented individuals in the field.
Why Does a Diversity Gap Exist in Nursing?
As with many aspects of American life, healthcare leaders who perpetuate racist practices and systems have historically prevented minority nurses from advancing in their careers. For example, the American Nurses Association barred Black nurses from membership until the 1950s. Likewise, many states refused to let Black nurses join the state professional associations.
A 2008 survey by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration found that African American, Latino/a, and Asian nurses seek out advanced degrees at higher rates than their white colleagues. Even so, minority nurses continue to make up less than a quarter of all RNs.
Outdated gender role expectations have also led to a shortage of men in the nursing field.
While diversity is high among licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses, the high cost of education for advanced practice registered nurses can present a major challenge. A shortage of nursing faculty, and particularly of minority nurses, also contributes to the lack of diversity in nursing education. Discrimination persists, as well, affecting hiring decisions.
These underrepresented populations in nursing include Black, Latino/a, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Indigenous Americans. Outdated gender role expectations have also led to a shortage of men in the nursing field. Most gender data for the nursing profession is incomplete, only accounting for binary gender identities (men and women).
For more information about the lack of diversity in advanced nursing, follow the link below.
The Lack of Diversity in Advanced Nursing
Increasing Diversity in the Nursing Workforce
Increased diversity in the healthcare field helps both workers and patients. Healthcare professionals meet people from all backgrounds. In 2004, the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce posited that the lack of diversity in the industry contributes directly to the problem of unequal access to healthcare.
Understanding how to engage across a wide variety of cultures is a major part of the job, and robust representation helps everyone increase their cultural competence.
Challenges persist in enhancing diversity in the nursing workforce. Still, schools and professional organizations are collaborating to enact change through scholarships and grants, a drive for more federal funding, college admissions overhauls, and missions to attract and recruit more diverse faculty members.
The Future of Diversity in the Nursing Profession
Efforts to recruit nurses from underrepresented populations already show positive trends.
In 2008, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported that minority nurses made up 16.8% of RNs. More recent data from 2017 reported that 19.2% of RNs come from minority backgrounds.
Organizations and colleges that institute actionable strategic plans around diversity in nursing report increased recruitment and retention rates as they address the challenges of funding, access to resources, and institutional leadership.
By offering robust resources for underrepresented populations in nursing, organizations across the healthcare sector can encourage increased diversity among nurses, for everyone’s benefit.
Best Resources for Underrepresented Nurses
Below, readers can explore resources specifically geared toward nurses who are Latino/a, Black, Asian, Indigenous, or men. By connecting with these organizations, nurses can connect with other professionals and access benefits that may include networking, events, and continuing education. These organizations mostly serve working professionals, though some may offer select resources for students.
Latino/a and Hispanic Organizations and Resources
National Association of Hispanic Nurses
Founded in 1975, the NAHN began as the National Association of Spanish-Speaking/Spanish-Surnamed Nurses. Today the NAHN welcomes healthcare workers who want to work to meet the needs of Hispanic and Latino/a communities. These include licensed nurses, unlicensed healthcare professionals, unlicensed students, and retired nurses. Members can access local chapters, conferences and events, and official publications.
Hispanic Star Nursing Scholarships
The Hispanic Star partners with organizations and corporations to support Hispanic individuals in the workplace. In collaboration with NurseHeroes.org, this organization is raising funds to provide 1,000 scholarships for aspiring nurses of Hispanic heritage. The Hispanic Star provides information about Hispanic professionals in the workforce, plus webinars and events.
National Black Nurses Association, Inc.
Since 1971, the NBNA has supported Black nurses by providing a forum for connection and collaboration. The organization works to understand Black Americans’ healthcare needs and provide better access to quality care. Members can access a full suite of benefits, including a career center, academic publications and research, continuing education, and advocacy.
Black Nurses Rock
Established in Mississippi in 2014, Black Nurses Rock provides robust online support for Black nurses. With the help of an active social media presence, Black Nurses Rock addresses the needs of historically excluded communities and provides resources for Black nurses. Members can access local chapters, events, webinars, professional discounts, and career support, including resume review.
Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, Inc.
Established in 1992, the AAPINA supports Asian American Pacific Islander nurses through international initiatives that center research, peer networking, and community action. Licensed nurses can join as full members, while unlicensed and pre-licensed nurses can join as associate members. AAPINA members access scholarships and grants, conference discounts, a member directory, and an industry newsletter.
National Indian Nurse Practitioners Association of America
The NINPAA encourages excellence in nursing by researching and publishing information on best practices, providing professional education, and advocating for Indian American nurse practitioners. Members can join as full, associate, retired, or student nurses. The organization holds regular events, issues publications, and fundraises for causes that impact the community both in the U.S. and India.
Philippine Nurses Association of America
With 55 chapters to support nurses on a local level, the PNAA dates back to 1979. The organization raises funds to help encourage Filipino Americans to pursue careers in nursing. Individual and chapter members can take advantage of active local chapters, industry newsletters and publications, events, and online career resources.
Indigenous American Organizations
National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association, Inc.
Seeking to connect Indigenous American and Alaska Native nurses and to improve healthcare in the community, a group of nurses founded the NANAINA in 1993. The organization promotes “traditions and innovation” in its mission to increase access to healthcare for all people. Members include active nurses, students, retired nurses, and those with other healthcare degrees. Members access networking, leadership development, and online resources.
Organizations for Men
The American Association for Men in Nursing
Founded in 1971, AAMN’s mission encourages men to pursue careers in nursing, engage in continuing education, and supports men’s health issues. Membership is not restricted by sex or gender, and benefits include access to webinars and professional development resources, events, local chapters, and networking opportunities.
Johnson & Johnson Nursing
Johnson & Johnson Nursing offers a wealth of resources for nurses across demographics. The site emphasizes the importance of men in nursing, however, with feature articles and interviews, plus searchable scholarships and financial programs for male nurses. They also offer information on various specialties within the field.
American Nurses Association
Open to all nurses, the ANA offers access to webinars and continuing education, industry news and publications, and a career center including job boards, plus local chapters and events. As part of the underrepresented populations in nursing, men might take particular interest in the innovation team, which supports progress in the field.
Other Diversity Resources
See More NP Organizations
American Association of Colleges of Nursing - Diversity and Inclusion Initiative
The AACN advocates for diversity in nursing and provides a full suite of resources including webinars and events, data-gathering research, publications, and funding opportunities. Accredited nursing schools can apply for organizational membership with AACN. All students and faculty can access member resources, including those provided by the diversity coalition.
The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action's Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee
Aware of the need to stop discrimination in healthcare, the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action established this steering committee to increase diversity in the nursing workforce. In partnership with AARP, the AARP Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this organization works to establish professional standards, promote leadership among minority nurses, and address racism and inequity in the healthcare system.
National Student Nurses' Association Breakthrough to Nursing Committee
The NSNA recognizes the lack of diversity in nursing and the nationwide crisis of unequal access to healthcare. In response, the organization launched a committee in 1965 to encourage underrepresented populations in nursing to pursue the career. Committee actions include scholarships for minority nurses, a monthly award program, online resources, and an annual leadership conference.
National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations
The NCEMNA brings together minority nursing organizations in advocacy for healthcare equity. The organization encourages those from historically excluded groups to join the profession and connects professionals across underrepresented populations in nursing. Recognizing that these groups share similar challenges in both nursing and healthcare access, NCEMNA supports minority nurses through events, scholarships, and advocacy.
Learn More About Financial Aid for Nursing Students
Aspiring nurses can access a variety of funding opportunities to help finance their studies. By completing a FAFSA, prospective students gain access to federal loans and grants. Many organizations also offer scholarship opportunities for underrepresented populations in nursing. For more information on financial aid for nursing students, follow the link below.
Financial Aid for Minority Students in Nursing
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some barriers to diversity in the nursing profession?
Underrepresented populations in nursing include nurses who are Black, Latino/a, Asian, Pacific Islander, Indigenous, and men. Individuals from these groups may hesitate to pursue advanced nursing due to the cost of education and a lack of diversity among faculty members. Minority nurses may also face discmination in the hiring process.
Why is diversity important to nursing?
Evidence shows that lack of diversity in nursing, and in the healthcare industry overall, contributes to inequitable access to healthcare. Nurses must communicate with people of all backgrounds, and a diverse workforce improves those skills.
How can nurses improve diversity in the workforce?
Nurses can improve diversity in the workforce by supporting strategic initiatives led by colleges and professional organizations. They can also help by supporting diverse hiring initiatives and providing robust resources for underrepresented populations in nursing. On a more personal level, nurses may work to create inclusive, affirming work environments for colleagues of all backgrounds.
How many nurses are Hispanic?
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Hispanic nurses make up 5.4% of all RNs. Hispanic nurses can join the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.
How do I join the National Black Nurses Association?
Nurses interested in joining the NBNA can visit the website and fill out an online application. The NBNA welcomes licensed and unlicensed nurses, student nurses, and retired nurses, with annual dues ranging from about $50-$225.
Angelique Geehan works to support and repair the connections people have to themselves and their families, communities, and cultural practices. A queer, gender-nonconforming, Asian parent, Geehan founded Interchange, a consulting group that offers anti-oppression support. She organizes as part of several groups, including National Perinatal Association’s Health Equity Workgroup, the Health and Healing Justice Committee of the National Queer and Trans Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance, QTPOC+ Family Circle, and Batalá Houston.
Angelique is a paid member of Red Ventures Education’s freelance review network.
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