As the nation becomes more diverse, the health system is in a race to keep pace. Nurses need to be able to provide care and advocate for diverse patient populations, including the aging, culturally diverse and chronically ill. To offer care that is effective and patient-centered, nurses need to be sensitive to each population’s specific needs.
A Look at the Groups Needing Care
The nation’s population is shifting in a number of ways. For one, it is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. The United States Census Bureau projects that the percentage of minorities in our nation, who now comprise about 37 percent of the population, will increase to 57 percent by 2060.
The nation is also getting older. It is estimated that between 2010 and 2030, the population of senior citizens — those 65 and older — will increase by 75 percent, per “The U.S. Is Running Out of Nurses” published in the The Atlantic. Not only is there an increasing number of older patients entering the system, but chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, are prevalent in this population.
How Diversity Affects Patient Care
There is a solid connection between a diverse workforce and the ability to offer patient-centered care, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
Providing patients with optimal care, which includes developing treatments and interventions, is dependent on a nurse’s ability to communicate with the patient, says Critical Care Nurse. Nurses cannot offer this level of care without a solid understanding of patients’ diverse cultural backgrounds and needs.
The aging population is another group to consider, as patients over 65 visit their doctors about eight times per year, compared with the general population’s average of five times per year. Failure to effectively communicate with this group can undermine their care.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) says patients respond better to nurses with similar backgrounds, which can very well translate to male patients and gender in general. Considering that nursing has been a mostly female preserve, more men in the profession would not only mean gender inclusion, it would also help address the nursing shortage.
Failure to create a diverse nursing workforce — one that is responsive to the needs of diverse populations — can lead to patient dissatisfaction, according to “Cultural Competence in Health Care: Is it important for people with chronic conditions?” a report by Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.
Language barriers are one source of patient dissatisfaction and lower quality of care. A lack of understanding of a patient’s particular culture’s values and needs also leaves patients dissatisfied.
According to the AACN, a diverse nursing force is pivotal to meeting the healthcare needs of all patients and reducing disparities. Today’s healthcare workforce bears little resemblance to the changing face of the nation’s population. Failure to keep pace could potentially leave many Americans feeling left out and uncared for.
RN to BSN Programs Prepare Nurses for Diverse Patient Populations
Nursing education is the backbone of the profession and prepares future nurses to care for diverse groups. Diversity in the nursing workforce begins with nursing school and requires the recruitment of nurses with diverse cultural, racial and gender backgrounds. The AACN says attracting men, African Americans, Hispanics and other under-represented groups is a high priority — healthcare systems need them to represent the growing diversity among patients.
The online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) prepares students to care for diverse patient populations. Courses like Gerontological Nursing & Chronic Illness (NURS 418) and Population Health Nursing (NURS 410) focus on some of the most pressing issues facing today’s diverse health system.
The nation is changing, and providing for the healthcare needs of all Americans will require a more culturally diverse nursing workforce. More nurses from under-represented groups, including men and minorities are needed. All nurses, regardless of their own backgrounds, should have a solid understanding of the needs of these groups.
Learn more about the CMU online RN to BSN program.
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